At her pace; fifteen-year-old skips high school

For the Vasiloff family, earning a solid education is the way to true success. Just ask the family’s patriarch, Michael Vasiloff, a computer engineer.

 “Because that’s how you make it in the real world after school is done – your education,” he said. “And they can never take that from you. It just gives you the tools that you need to succeed.”

His daughter, Kristia, after finishing this week her freshman year at James River High School’s specialty center of leadership, is looking forward to freshmanhood once again this fall – only she will be attending college this time around. “I will never graduate. I will never get the diploma,” she said.

And evidently, she doesn’t really need one either. Through a program named PEG (Program for Exceptionally Gifted), young Kristia, who is only fifteen years old, is literally skipping high school, taking at least 18 credits next fall at Mary Baldwin College, an all-female academic institution, where many PEG students from 13-16 can are accommodated.

A year after graduating from Matoaca Middle School’s CBG (center-based gifted) program, where Kristia was prepared for an intense high school regimen, she experienced a minor let down.

“I got to high school and it wasn’t super hard,” she said. “I was expecting really challenging classes. I was taking biology honors and Latin four honors; classes that are challenging but they weren’t challenging to the level that I needed them to be.”

Kristia, who does not own driver’s permit, let alone a driver’s license, first heard about the idea of going off to college from her parents on a family vacation last year. “We threw the ball in her court and she ran with it,” said her mother, Kelly Vasiloff, a preschool teacher at Chester Baptist.

Last fall, while completing a series of interviews and numerous writing prompt submissions, Kristia, who had a 4.06 GPA at James River, doubted she would get accepted into the program.

“It never really occurred to me that I could get in;” said Kristia, “I just knew that I’d have to try. It’s an opportunity that you can’t pass up and I really felt that it was something I needed to do. And even if I didn’t get in, the process of it was something you could seriously learn from. It was really important to me that I gave it a chance, and it ended up being a great experience.”

After getting a 25 on her ACTs, which PEG required a score equivalent to a high school senior, Kristia was accepted into the program at Mary Baldwin where she will be double majoring in social work and biology, and minoring in Japanese. As Mary Baldwin’s PEG program has an entire dorm for other students Kristia’s age, monitoring them and providing a safe environment for the young college students, the family has assurance in Kristia’s safety since her cousin will also be attending the college as an upper classman – plus Kristia just earned her black belt in Tae Kwon Do, May 7, so she can probably fend for herself.

Kristia plans to be either a neuropathologist or a social worker who works in tandem with non-profit organizations when she has her master’s degree. But in the mean time, Kristia spends her free time volunteering. And since creating her own charity, “Stuffed with Love”, a couple years ago, which gives stuff animals to children in domestic abuse shelters, she has over the year raised 2,000 stuffed animals.

Now that it’s summer, Kristia is planning to continue volunteering, as well as learning how to cook, spending more time relaxing, reading a lot, and more volunteering, all while moving at her own pace.

“I’m glad I have the opportunity to move on quicker,” she said, “ because [ages] 15-25 are the years that you can really change your life and what you do and who you are and how the world sees you, and being able to get my master’s by 22, I’ll have a lot of life ahead of me to take the risks and do things that most people can’t because of age, so I’m really happy in that aspect.”

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