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13-year-old prodigy to get college degree

post #1 of 10
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ASHLAND, Virginia (AP) -- He was solving math problems at 14 months, reading and correcting adults' grammar by 2 -- the same age he decided to become a vegetarian. He was explaining photosynthesis to kindergarten classmates at 5.

He breezed through 10 grades of school in three years, graduated with honors from high school at 9, founded an international youth advocacy organization, met with prime ministers and presidents, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Twice.

Now, 13-year-old Gregory Robert Smith is about to add another line to his resume: College graduate.

Greg will receive his bachelor's degree in mathematics May 31 from Randolph-Macon College, a private Methodist school 15 miles north of Richmond. Greg, who was elected Phi Beta Kappa, is graduating cum laude.

He has not yet said where he will attend graduate school. He plans to earn PhDs in math, aerospace engineering, political science and biomedical engineering, and pursue multiple careers while continuing to champion nonviolence and children's rights.

Among his goals is to become president of the United States.

"It would give me the opportunity to help so many people," Greg said in an interview in the campus office where Janet Smith spends her days managing her son's always-packed daily schedule.

Greg's arrival at Randolph-Macon in September 1999 drew so much attention that he had to schedule two news conferences -- one before classes and one at the end of the day. School officials expect a similar crush on graduation day.

Since that first day of college, Greg has shot up 13 inches -- "5 feet 7," he says proudly -- but his maturity and personal growth are much harder to quantify, said his mentor, psychology professor Michael Wessells.

"I don't have a measuring stick for it," Wessells said. "He has come much farther in three years than anyone I've ever known."

Greg already was well ahead of his classmates intellectually when he arrived, Wessells said. But the cheerful lad with the distinctive bowl-shaped mop of golden hair lacked life experience and cultural understanding.

That is where he has made the greatest strides, Wessells said.

"He has boundless curiosity, a tremendous sense of values around peace and social justice, and great motivation. His is a mind that should not be straitjacketed."

post #2 of 10
I saw this, in yesterday's paper. I can't see holding a kid back but, what can he have in common, with kids his own age OR with other college kids? He's kind of stuck, in his own little niche.

A lot of these child prodigies wind up totally messed up. Look at Ted Kazinsky, the Unabomber.
post #3 of 10
When I see something like this, I feel sad for the kid. When I was in high school, we had a 10 year old in our freshman class with us. So, everyone else was 4 years older, and there is a BIG difference between 10 and 14. The poor guy was pretty friendless until our senior year, when he made some friends in the new freshman class (who were his age). I don't know how his life went after high school, but there is no way on God's green earth it could have been easy for him.
post #4 of 10
As a former teacher I'd counsel the parents of truly gifted children not to keep them in public school. They just don't fit. Even if there is a gifted program in their local public school the gifted program sets them apart and makes them different from the rest of the student body. There are private schools for these kinds of kids where they will fit in and flourish. And many of these schools offer scholarships to those who can't afford tuition.
post #5 of 10
Highly gifted children are as far away from the norm as severely mentally diasbled people are. In my freshman year of college the girl across the hall from me in the dorm was 16. She may have been smart enough to be there, but socially, she was waaay behind the pack. It was sad, because frat guys took heavy advantage of her. Kids with very high IQs also have a greater statistical chance of committing suicide.
post #6 of 10
I agree he would have more than a hard time "fitting in", but to hold him back would have been just as hard. He wouldn't have been able to relate with kids his own age, either. I wonder if he has any close friends. Friendships and social interaction with peers is important to social and emotional development. I think it is wonderful he has excelled so much, but I think he will have a hard time socially, maybe for the rest of his life.
post #7 of 10
If this is the kid I think it is, he was on Oprah when she did show about kids with an amazing gifts.

He was a very well spoken young man, and he had a lot to say about improving the world. He may be ahead of everyone now, but others eventually will catch up. It didn't seem to me that he was mourning the passing of his childhood, but instead looking forward to his future and the ability to help his fellow man. He was very impressive.
post #8 of 10
I have a friend with a gifted son. He was home schooled and when she couldn't teach him anymore, he was taught by video. He started going to college to take certain courses when he was 15. He is now 23 and is going for his PH D in Bio Chemistry. I think the difference in him is that he was not treated any differently than her other children. They are also very active at church, so I think that helped to socialize him. He is a great guy.
post #9 of 10
I personally think that these gifted children should have a special school for them. Its unfair to those kids to go through public school since many kids can not relate to them. But I also don't agree with home schooling kids (except for gifted kids). There are several families in my small community that home school their kids and those kids don't have many social skills with people. Most of them are shy and don't know how to relate to other kids their age. I believe that you learn more than just education at school. You learn how to socialize with people, expression of feelings & emotions and learn how to respect others. JMO
post #10 of 10
I think that home schooling is great, as long as you give children other outlets to socialize. Church is a great place for children to learn socialization. Most of the children I know who have been home schooled are bright, polite, respectful and fun to be around.
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