My last Associated Press article of my journalistic career. Published May 9, 2009. Also Published in national magazine, Community College Weekly.
At an age when most student start thinking about going to college, John McGraw, 15, and his sister, Jessica, 14, graduated with associate's degres from New Mexico Junior College Friday night.
The siblings, who were both home-schooled during their junior high and high school years, are the youngest students to earn degees from the junior college. The pair are members of Phi Theta Kappa, NMJC's honor society.
Jessica is graduatin with a 4.0 GPA and earned 96 credit hous, and John has a 3.6 GPA and earned 93 credit hours. Jessica also received five subject academic achievement awards from the junior college this spring.
This year NMJC awarded associate's degrees, certificates and GEDs to 213 students Friday night at the Le County Event Center. NMJC math professor Shyla McGill received the Elliott and Waldron Title Co. faculty of the year award and math professor Charlottee Schmitz received the Rotarian John Shepherd faculty of the year award.
"It's an honor. It's amazing," said John, who will celebrate is 16th birthda on Sunday. it's not often tat you get to experiece graduating fro college at 15 or 14 years old. It's onlya once-in-a-lifetime chance."
"I think it's great," Jessica said. "I think it'll inspire other home-schooled students to start college early."
Also recognized at the junior college graduation was Amanda Owens, received the Wells Fargo Bank maintenance/security employee of the year award and Kim Adams, who receivd the First American Bank support staff employee of the year ward.
NMJC Board member Ron Blac gave the charge to the graduate. He wrked at the junior college for 30 yars, teaching history and government and serving as the junior college basketball coach for 23 years.
"Churchill said, 'Success goes from one loss to another without a loss of enthusiasm,'" Black said. "Remember these words. Failure is not going to be permanent and succes won't be either. Nelson Mandela said, 'Education is the most powerful weapon you have to change the world.' We at NMJC hope you use your eduction to change the world."
John Gratton, vice president for instruction at NMJC, said colleges and unversitis were restricted to work with students who had not reached their 16th birthday or had not completed their sophomore year in high school. However, the New Mexico Higher Education Department approved a measre whereby college could admit students younger than 16 as long as the colleges maintained a consistent policy of admitting these stuents.
John and Jessica and their parents, John and Amanda McGraw of Hobbs, came to NMJC two years ago with the goal of taking several college classes, Gratton said. After testing the pair, it was determined they had already reached college readiness in math, reading and writing and were approved to start taking college courses.
"The accomplishments of these two students is remarkable in that they have excelled in every college course ... and in May will graduate with honors at an age when most students are just starting to think abut college," Gratton said in an e-mail. "Although it is still rare to witness this type of accomplishment, I believe in the future we will see more and more success stories such as John and Jessica's. It has been mypeasure to work with these two students, and I hope others will follow their example and start their college education early in life."
It was their dad who inspired them to go to college at a young age, Jessica said. After receiving home-school high shool diplomas, they became students at the junior college. She was 12 and he was 13.
"We thought it'd be a great learning experience to take (college classes)," Jessica said.
"I think I did it primarily to knock out four years of high school and get a jump start on college and life," John said.
John and Jessica asked to be home-scooled because of the advantages of pacing themselves and having fewer distractions, said John McGraw, John and Jessica's father. The pair finished their high school education in two years.
"I agreed (to let them attend NMJC) because I felt they could handle it," said the senior McGraw by e-mail. "I also believe the years gained ahead of their peers will enable hem to pursue advanced degrees and residencies to completion before the normal mid-life ages."
The younger John and his sister will probably attend he same four-year college or univerity, but they aren't sure which one. They plan to earn bachelor's degrees in science and go on to medical school.