To say Christie Taylor has excelled as a student would be an understatement.
Taylor, the daughter of Gainesville periodontist John Taylor and his wife, Tracy, will graduate Friday night as the co-valedictorian of White Hall County High School with a 4.0 unweighted grade-point average. She was named a Star Student as the senior with the highest SAT score and won the Outstanding Student Award this year from the Georgia secretary of state’s office.
In addition, she graduated earlier this month from the University of North Georgia with associate degrees in biology and chemistry.
And she’s only 15 years old.
At age 13, Taylor began studying at the UNG campus in Dahlonega through the Move On When Ready dual enrollment program, which allows students who qualify to attend school full time on a college campus with the credits applying to both high school and college programs. Usually, the students in the program are between the ages of 16 and 18, the traditional age of high school students
“I was the only student in the parent pick-up lane,” Taylor joked.
“It definitely takes more hours,” she said of the workload. “Most days, I would stay until 6 p.m. and sometimes 11 pm at the school. I would usually wake up at 4 a.m. It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it. I like it; there’s no busy work. As soon as you get there, you hit the floor running.”
Getting accepted into college at age 13 wasn’t difficult — once she talked her mother into it.
“At first, I told her it was impossible. I said, ‘You can’t apply,’” Tracy Taylor recalled telling her daughter. “She printed off an application, filled it out and said, ‘Can you give me the admission check?’ I said, ‘You cannot apply at 13. You haven’t even been to high school.’”
Tracy Taylor did not give in until she read in a book that the 18th century pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards had gone to college at age 13. Then, she gave her daughter the check.
“Every day I pick her up and she acts like it’s Christmas,” Tracy Taylor said. “She says, ‘Let me tell you what I learned.’ I don’t understand what she’s talking about, but she is so happy.”
Her dad said the experience of a daughter attending college before she earned her driver’s license has been “exciting.”
“I never expected to go through this adventure, but it’s all been positive,” he said. “She’s acclimated to her environment very well. Everybody just took her in and allowed her to progress the way she has.”
Taylor also doesn’t doesn’t have the typical summer job. She plans to spend the summer working as a teaching assistant in an organic chemistry classroom. Dan Thompson, a UNG organic chemistry professor, said Taylor will be working with him setting up and taking down laboratories, making sure students have what they need for each day’s tasks and helping grade laboratory notebooks — all with students who are older than her.
“I think it’s going to be a learning experience for her; I think she’s going to grow into it,” Thompson said. “It is a position of responsibility.”
But he has confidence in his new employee.
“Christie is one of the brightest students I have ever run across — age aside,” he said. “She is very responsible; she is as hard a worker as I’ve ever seen. She had a problem with her back earlier this spring that caused her some angst, and she wound up having to stand in the back of my class taking notes. She took exams standing up because she didn’t want to miss anything.”
Taylor plans to enroll as a junior this fall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and hopes to attend medical school after earning her undergraduate degree.
“I’d like to go to medical school and then eventually I’d like to run for (U.S) Senate,” she said. “I really have a passion for kids, so I want to give back to my community so much. You can’t do that until you’re about 30, so it’ll be a little while.”
Barry Friedman, a political science professor, helped initiate Taylor into the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society at UNG, a national organization that recognizes students for academic achievement and leadership.
“She’s absolutely brilliant,” Friedman said. “Of course, she makes it work because she’s very, very motivated and she has a very clear vision of some impressive things that she wants to accomplish.”
Tracy Taylor said she is not concerned about sending her 15-year-old daughter to college in North Carolina.
“My sister lives in Chapel Hill across the street from the school,” she said. “That’s part of the reason that she’s allowed to go there.”
While she has many accomplishments in different areas, Taylor said she is very excited about graduating with her high school class Friday night.
“I’m so proud of my school and my graduating class and everyone, and it will really be an honor to walk across that stage as well as the college stage,” she said “I keep good contact with (high school) friends and they come over for cookouts and we go out to dinner.”