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Young Scholar Graduates with Bachelor’s Degree at 12 Years Old

Graduating college is a momentous feat for anyone, and a young Chicago native has more than enough reasons to celebrate earning her college diploma.

“I want to go into my masters in environmental engineering, but I do want to take a couple gap months,” said 12-year-old DJ Tillman.

Tillman was the youngest graduate to cross the state at Excelsior College’s annual commencement ceremony last Friday, Albany’s News 10 reported. The young scholar already has an associate’s degree under her belt and hopes to one day join the Space Force.

“With environmental engineering it’s all about helping people, the environment, and that’s just what I love to do,” said DJ, whose full name is Dorothy Jean.

Her mother, Jemelita, said she always knew there was something special about her daughter and applauded her recent success.

“Dorothy, I believe, started doing double digits by four or three and we are really excited about the way she loved learning,” Jemelita said of her child, who she nicknamed “Dorothy Genius”. ” … There are some great things coming out of the south side of Chicago and this, my baby, is one of the greatest of them all.”

The 12-year-old decided to fast track her academic career after she says school was no longer fun and didn’t challenge her the way it used to.

“It wasn’t as fast-paced,” she told News 10. “In our culture, intellectualism and academic achievement has been diminished over time and I think it’s incredibly important, particularly at a time when there are questions about the value of a higher education.”

DJ and her mother don’t feel her success is causing her to miss out on her childhood, however. The young scholar said she still makes time to enjoy a movie with friends or hang out at the park.

“She still plays with bubbles,” her mother added. “My child still loves to go on the swing. So when the question comes up, is she nervous, is she going to miss stop for high school — she’s not even in the high school mind.”

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