When Grace Bush receives her diploma from Florida Atlantic University on Friday, she'll have something else to look forward to: high school graduation the following week.
Bush, 16, is a senior at FAU High, a school on campus where students normally earn three years of college credit while still in high school. But Bush started at 13 at Broward College and accelerated so quickly she's already finished four years of college credits.
"I'm excited, but for some reason, it feels like it's all coming too soon, too fast," said Bush, who lives in Hollywood.
She will receive her bachelor's in criminal justice at a ceremony at 9 a.m. Friday. Her high school graduation comes seven days later on May 9.
"I know that sounds weird, but just by nature of it, college graduations are sooner than high school graduations," FAU High Principal Tammy Ferguson said. "We're waiting on the grades from the college."
Bush is FAU's youngest graduate this year and one of the youngest ever. Since FAU opened 50 years ago, 10 students aged 16 or younger have received a bachelor's degree. The youngest was child prodigy Edith Stern, who was 15 when she received her degree in 1968. She went on to become a trailblazing engineer for IBM who has been issued 128 patents.
Bush, one of nine children, isn't the first in her family to get a college diploma at a young age. Her sister Gisla graduated from FAU last year at 18 and is pursuing a master's there. Her 17-year-old sister Gabrielle expects to graduate from FAU this summer. Her cousin James Martin, of Tamarac, graduated last year at 17 and is now studying at Princeton University. All went through FAU High.
Bush's mother, also named Gisla Bush, has home-schooled her children, which enabled them to learn at a fast pace. But the speed at which Grace could learn surprised even her mother.
"She was very accelerated. She started reading at 2 and she could perform as well as her older sister who was three years her senior," the mother said.
Bush's parents wanted their nine children to earn college credit in high school because they can't afford to send them all to college. Florida's dual enrollment programs allow high performing students to take courses at local colleges for free before they graduate high school. They earn high school and college credit for the same courses and can save thousands of dollars.
Bush started taking classes at Broward College's Hollywood campus when she was 13, accompanying her older sisters who were also attending. At 14, she scored well enough on an FAU High entrance exam to start as a sophomore.
She has taken a full load of classes every semester since, including summers. She balanced her academics with music, playing the flute for the Miami Music Project orchestra and the South Florida Youth Symphony.
"My music is my stress reliever," she said.
She usually got home from her music activities around 10 p.m. every night and would stay up until about 2 a.m. studying. Her father, Bobby, would take her to FAU every day, and she'd nap on the commute.
She never attended school dances, football games parties or many other popular high school and college activities.
"I missed out on being a kid, goofing off and wasting time," she said.
With a petite figure and youthful face, Grace Bush didn't exactly look like the other college students.
"We never told anyone our age," Grace Bush said. "But sometimes we would walk through the campus and someone would say, 'You look like you're 10 years old."
Although she strove for a 4.0 GPA, she did get a few B's and will finish a 3.81.
She's planning to pursue a master's degree at FAU this fall and then go to law school. She'll devote this summer to studying for the LSAT.
And she's setting her ultimate career goals high.
"I would like to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court," she said.
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