‘It Has Not Really Sunk In’: 16-Year-Old Biology Student Set to Graduate with Numerous Honors from University of Alabama Next Month; Medical School Is Her Next Goal

The University of Alabama is graduating a biology student in its Class of 2023 that is just old enough to drive a car in the state. The future surgeon will walk across the stage and receive her Bachelor of Science degree while being decorated in over 12 honors ropes and tassels.

Despite being one of the school’s youngest graduates, she is at the top of her class, summa cum laude.

Senior LeAnna Roberts is not old enough to vote but is applying for medical school after graduation.

LeAnna Roberts will become one of the youngest graduates in Alabama with a Biology degree (Credit: LeAnna Roberts)

“I am currently preparing to take the Medical College Admission Test next month so I can start the application process for medical schools,” Roberts said, according to the school’s website. “I’m looking into medical schools in the Southeast but will be applying to programs throughout the country.”

It is a part of the 16-year-old’s trajectory — one that has allowed her to hold a position on the Society of Women in Medicine executive board, Vision Days program ambassador, and become a mentor to other students.

“I also perform research in health disparities with Black-built communities,” Roberts says about her academic interests to WVTM 13.

“My overall goal is just to improve health care disparities and inequities that we see, especially with underserved communities,” the Tuscaloosa, Alabama, native said. “My grandparents are from rural Alabama. So, I’ve been able to witness firsthand since I was a younger child just how that can affect one’s health. So being able to impact that is my long-term goal as a physician.”

Roberts wants to be an orthopedist.

Her unusual matriculation has been supported by her parents, who have worked with the administration to make sure that as a minor she is supported on campus and with her classmates who are all substantially older.

She transferred to Alabama at 15, after receiving her associate degree from Shelton State Community College. As a high school student, she found herself enrolled in a dual program which allowed her the opportunity to graduate from Central High School and Shelton State on the same day.

“I wanted to make sure it was going to be a safe environment for her, and we wouldn’t have to worry,” Lee Roberts, the soon-to-be graduate’s father, said. He added that the school paired her with a mentor and provided additional resources a student of her age might need while on campus.

Each day, her mother, Latonya Roberts, would pick her up from school and bring her home, delighting in the stories of her brilliant daughter’s day.

“I was always excited to hear about her day. Every day was unique, even though certain days were more challenging than others, but she always saw the bright side,” the proud mother said.

She also knows how proud her family is of her.

“I’m super-excited, it has not really sunk in yet, but I’m very excited. My family, of course, they’re all super-proud of me and will be coming to support,” Roberts told the Tuscaloosa News.

While not in the Top Ten Youngest People to Graduate College List, at 16 she is one of the country’s youngest to receive a bachelor’s degree.

For Leanna, the extraordinary accomplishment is not lost on her and she has done all that she can to normalize life, during her time as an undergrad.

“The name of the game has definitely been balance. Balancing extracurricular activities as well as remaining vigilant in the classroom has helped me succeed so far,” Leanna said.

Roberts’ graduation from the University of Alabama is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, at Coleman Coliseum. This will not be the end of her current studies. In addition to getting her degree from Alabama, the scholar has been enrolled in a Master of Business Administration degree through the STEM Path to MBA and anticipates completing that graduate degree in one year.

“Just being in the position to be where I am is a huge blessing,” Roberts said.

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