At age 12, Dorothy Jean Tillman already has two degrees

Theodora Aidoo February 08, 2020
Dorothy Jean Tillman

While most pre-teens are probably trying to figure out their identity or excited about their summer plans, 12-year-old Dorothy Jean Tillman who hails from Chicago is already a graduate with two degrees.

She earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from upstate New York’s Excelsior College in 2018.

Prior to obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Tillman had already earned an associate degree in psychology from the College of Lake County, in Grayslake, Illinois, at age 10.

“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”.

“Dorothy, I believe, started doing double digits by four or three, and we were really excited about the way she loved learning,” her mother, Jimalita Tillman, said.

Young Tillman believes that environmental engineering is all about helping people and the environment, and that’s just what she’d love to do. “I want to get my master’s in environmental engineering. I do want to take a couple of gap months,” Tillman told NEWS 10.

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She wants to develop the skills to solve problems such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Reports say the teen genius is also an airplane pilot learning to fly Cessna 172s through a program based in Tuskegee, Alabama, the home of the famous Tuskegee Airmen.

Despite her academic prowess, Tillman still makes time to enjoy her childhood. She has a normal social life with her friends and peers. She said she goes to parties, concerts, and movies, and she enjoys reading and painting and has a passion for theatre arts as well as technology.

“She still plays with bubbles,” her mother said. “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.”

“In our culture, intellectualism is an academic achievement that has been diminished over time, and I think it’s incredibly important, particularly at a time when there are questions about the value of higher education,” Tillman’s mother, Jimalita, noted.

“It’s not I just lock myself away from the world and do school all day. I still have friends and we go to the park and go to movies,” Tillman said.

The now 14-year-old NSBE Jr. member and Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) alumna has been making a positive impact on her community through volunteer works such as “The BackPack Giveback”.

Tillman, who received “Who Rocks! Next” honors at the 2018 Black Girls Rock! said her message for her peer group is “always do what works for you, and do it as best you can. Nobody can make you not be you. Nobody can do you better than you can be you. So do what works best for you.”

Watch her interview with WGN9 below:

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: February 8, 2020


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