At this time of the year, most 16-year-olds in the U.S. are thinking about winding down their years in high school, spending the summer break working, or camping with their friends.
This is not the case for Haley Taylor Schlitz, a North Texas teen who is going from being home-schooled to a law school at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.
The 16-year-old is already on track to graduate with both an associate’s and a bachelor’s degree in May. The Fort Worth teen will use her upcoming summer to prepare for law school and attend a six-day programme with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington for incoming law students, according to Texas Lawyer.
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Schlitz, who graduated from high school when she was just 13, was accepted into nine law schools including at Howard University, Texas Southern University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock
She, however, chose to enrol 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.
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 is preparing to graduate with a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies in May and head to law school.
SMU has not able to say whether the teen is the youngest ever to enrol at the Dallas campus, although admissions officials said she is the youngest they know of, Texas Lawyer reported.
Schlitz initially wanted to be a doctor, but what she called inequities in the education system, particularly in the gifted and talented programme with girls and girls of colour, compelled her to change her mind.
“That’s something I felt really passionate about because of my own story, that I wasn’t even able to get in. Where I went there were a bunch of boys who were not of colour who were able to get in at the same age I wasn’t able to get in. It sparked a fire in me and made me want to fight for equality,” she said.
Apart from working toward a law degree, Schlitz has written a book: “The Homeschool Advantage,” published in January. 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.
Home-schooling played a huge role in getting Schlitz into law school, and the teen believes that others can toe her line.
“I feel like there are a lot of students who can do what I did,” Schlitz said.
“Obviously, it’s not impossible because I did it and I’m not a super genius.”
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 programme that will help other gifted students of colour.
“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.”