"The people who are my best friends now used to pick which day I could play with them," said the tall, wiry Singer. "They were always ragging on me. I used to cry all the time. I got my armor from those experiences. I got tough. I became my own person."
Singer has also become a presidential scholar. He is among 141 in the country and three in Pennsylvania who have been awarded the highest federal honor bestowed upon a graduating senior.
The annual award - a medal and a $1,000 scholarship - is given to students who display exemplary academic scholarship, leadership, character and commitment to high ideals, said Jupe Hale, executive adviser to the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Students are selected from a pool of 11,000 students who have high scores on their Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Tests (PSATs). The winners are then named based on an extensive application that includes consideration of transcripts, grades and essays.
The presidential scholar designation is one of many honors that Singer will add to his collection of awards, including National Merit Scholar; co-winner of the school district's highest award, the Upper Dublin Medal, and numerous science competition and literary prizes.
"I do 3,000 things because I like doing 3,000 things, not because it will look good on a college application," he said.
Singer fits baseball, chorus, math club, drama club, band, video club and the school newspaper into his busy days and nights.
"He's involved in so many activities that he really wants to do that he gets strung out," said Singer's best friend, Jon Harris. "He's very idealistic. He wants to help everybody all the time, and sometimes he finds that it's impossible, but he never fails to try."
In the eighth grade, Singer decided that the one thing he would always do would be to try. He'd take the "white knight, fight for the right," of Batman, the human-rights activism of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the hustle of Pete Rose, combine those qualities, and, if he happened to save the world along the way, that would be great too.
"I wanted to make an impact," Singer said. It was something that his friend Marc Ludwig never got a chance to do.
Ludwig died of a brain aneurysm while he was at summer camp when both Ludwig and Singer were in the eighth grade.
"I was really messed up behind it," Singer said. "I realized that we don't have much time and I really wanted to do something. . . . I don't think it changed me that much, but it focused me."
Singer says he wants to grow up beyond the sheltered life of suburbia. He's traveled to the Soviet Union and will take a month-long drive across the United States with Harris this summer. In the fall, he will attend Yale University, where he will major in either science, English or pre-law.