In March 2019, North Texas teen Haley Taylor Schlitz announced that she was going from being home-schooled to a law school at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. At just 16 at the time, she said she was already on track to graduate with both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree in May.
The Fort Worth teen then used the summer to prepare for law school and attend a six-day program with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington for incoming law students. Schlitz, who graduated from high school when she was just 13, was accepted into nine law schools including Howard University, Texas Southern University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She, however, chose to enroll at SMU to enable her to stay home and attend school.
“A lot of factors went into it. Obviously, I’m 16 so I want to stay at home. My parents suggested getting an apartment, but I really wanted to stay at home. That was huge. I’ll commute every day I have class. SMU also offered me the biggest scholarship, which is important too,” she told Texas Lawyer in an interview at the time.
Now at 19 years old, she is a third-year law student at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in University Park, Texas. A press release by the school says Schlitz will officially graduate on May 13 with her law degree after three years. This will make her the youngest Black woman to graduate from law school in America.
In her three years at Dedman School of Law, Schlitz has “made a name for herself as an author, public speaker, and respected thought leader on the issues students of color face in navigating gifted and talented programs in public schools,” the press release said.
Home-schooling played a huge role in getting Schlitz to where she is now. When she was in the fifth grade, her parents took her out of public school and started home-schooling her after noticing that she was getting bored with the curriculum.
“I was just being taught to pass the end-of-the-year test to get to the next grade. I wasn’t being taught to learn,” the teen said.
Schlitz was not allowed to take a test to enter the gifted program in public schools, so her parents had her tested privately and discovered she was gifted. “Home-schooling helped me go at my own pace and thrive on my own terms, Schlitz told Dallas News. “I was able to skip what I knew and do what’s at my intellectual level.”
In 2016, Schlitz started taking classes at Tarrant County College and entered Texas Woman’s College in Denton in 2017. At 16, she graduated with a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies and went on to law school.
Schlitz initially wanted to be a doctor, but what she called inequities in the education system, particularly in the gifted and talented program with girls and girls of color, compelled her to change her mind. Apart from working toward a law degree, Schlitz has written a book: “The Homeschool Advantage,” published in January 2019. It was co-written by Schlitz and her mother, emergency medicine physician, Myiesha Taylor. The book teaches families the benefits of home-schooling and the kind of mindset students need to succeed.
Schlitz wants to practice law and become a judge after graduating from law school. For someone interested in intellectual property, the young woman would not mind opening her own business in the future. Most importantly, she wants to create a program that will help other gifted students of color.
“I really want to help students realize their potential even if they can’t home-school,” she said. “I want to help families open their eyes to the opportunities that they don’t even realize are there.”