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Tennessee 16-Year-Old Becomes One of the Youngest Students to Attend HBCU Clark Atlanta University

Tennessee teenager Emory Pruitt was just 15 years old when she became one of the youngest students to enroll in classes at a historically Black college in Atlanta.

Officials said Pruitt, who recently turned 16, is the youngest student to attend Clark Atlanta University “in recent memory,” in a statement shared on the school’s website.

“It actually was the dedication and my family that pushed me each day,” said Pruitt, a native of Hendersonville, Tennessee. “I should thank the people that doubted me; that just made me work even harder.”

Pruitt, who graduated from high school early with a 3.7 GPA, said she was teased by students and teachers alike for being a high-achiever.

“At her hometown high school, she was mocked for being a young Black woman who dared to dream big,” CAU said in the statement.

Emory Pruitt. (Photo: CAU Twitter)

Karen Pruitt, who raised Emory as a single mother, said her daughter was ecstatic to learn about her acceptance to CAU.

“Words would not be able to describe how thrilled and excited she was to have come across a dream come true,” Karen Pruitt said.

Pruitt’s 18-year-old brother Elijah was also accepted to the university this year.

Karen Pruitt enrolled her daughter in online courses at Penn Foster High School in order to protect her from discrimination, and allow her to focus on school.

“I know that this was the best choice to protect her and her feelings; no one should have to defend the color of their skin,” she said.

Penn Foster says it offers an accredited flexible online high school diploma program that allows students to learn and study on their own schedule.

Emory Pruitt. (Photo: Courtesy of family)

After starting classes online earlier this year as a freshman, Pruitt was able to complete the rest of her high school courses in about six or seven months. “I did six to eight exams a night to graduate early,” Pruitt said .

Classes at CAU have been conducted fully virtually this semester amid the pandemic, which has smoothened Pruitt’s transition, as she is already accustomed to online learning.

It’s not yet clear whether classes will be in-person in the spring 2021 semester, but Pruitt arrived in Atlanta about a week ago. She is studying criminal justice, and hopes to receive a scholarship next semester.

“We are honored that this exceptional young woman chose Clark Atlanta University to continue her studies, and we look forward to supporting her through all of her endeavors,” said CAU Dean of Admissions Lori Saddler. Ms. Pruitt has already accomplished so much in just 16 years, and we know she’ll continue to build on her successes.” 

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