Black Excellence: North Carolina Woman Earns Ph.D at Age 23

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1978

Most “twens” spend their spare time watching TV or hanging out with friends, but that wasn’t the case for a North Carolina woman who began her college education at just 12 years old.

Fast forward 11 years and local woman Julia Nepper now has a Ph.D under her belt — a feat quite impressive for a 23-year-old.

“I’m so proud of her,” Nepper’s mother, Nadine, told local station WECT. “All that hard work has paid off. It’s hard to believe she was kept back in kindergarten that one year.”

Nepper’s parents said they always knew their daughter was gifted and decided to pull her from school because they felt she was not being challenged enough. If they wanted their child to excel academically, they would have to homeschool her, her mother explained. So, they did just that for four years.

Nepper started her college career at Cape Fear Community College, earning her associate’s degree at age 14, her bachelor’s at 16 from the University of North Carolina–Wilimington, and lastly, her Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin.

“Most of the people I have met, in my life, could have done what I did if they had the right support,” she told the news station. “I don’t fault my parents, pushing me, with regards to my education. Clearly, I could handle it and it worked. So they must have done something right.”

So what’s next for the accomplished scholar? Her mom would like for her to return home to Wilmington, but Nepper has high hopes of landing a job and moving to Japan. There’s a new world ahead, however, and Nepper admits she’s a bit scared.

“I’ve been in college most of my life and I haven’t really been in the real world,” she said.  “It’s exciting but actually scary to go out and get a job.”

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