13-Year-Old Prodigy Enrolls in College

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True, Amazing Kids

Paige Epler

13-year-old Paige Epler, right, listens to a lecture during her astronomy class at George Mason University. Credit: Mark Gail, Washington Post

A 13-year-old Woodbridge, Va., resident received a high school diploma and is now in college.

Paige Epler, 13, celebrated her high-school graduation on June 5
by delivering the commencement speech at University of Oklahoma High School in Norman, Okla., where she enrolled in distance-learning classes at the age of 9, according to The Washington Post. Her grade-point average when she graduated? An impressive 4.0.

The brainy teen is now enrolled at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., taking classes in the school of science.

"Paige is a fully admitted student, taking classes and earning credit," Dan Walsch, press secretary for GMU, told ParentDish. "She is doing well and we are glad to have her here."

Her class load is nothing to shrug off, either. The teenager is taking English, math and astronomy at GMU, according to Walsch. She told The Post that she likes the college scene because her fellow students are "engaged in class and are really there to learn."

No matter what her age, Paige is clearly an academic standout among her older friends at GMU. According to The Post, Paige has already created an exhibit for the Smithsonian Institution and serenaded President Barack Obama with her violin, which she said she began playing because "it was a challenge for me."

Paige's hunger for a challenge started early, according to her mom, Pam, who told The Post that her daughter started reading the labels on spice bottles at age 1. By age 2, her mom added, the girl was reading medical encyclopedias.

The child prodigy has never been taught in a traditional classroom -- she attended another distance-learning program at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential for elementary and middle school, and then went on to the University of Oklahoma High School program at the age of 9.

Besides playing the violin -- which she began at age 6 -- Paige developed a keen interest in sharks after a visit to the National Aquarium in Baltimore several years ago, according to The Post. Interested in doing something to help the endangered species, she created a "Save the Sharks" exhibit for an ecology day at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Museum officials were so impressed that they shared Paige's name with their colleagues at other institutions, where she also made her presentation. Pam Epler told The Post that she also shared her passion with a congressional hearing committee. Paige has also been featured as a "shark expert" on CBS's "The Early Show."

So just what does a child prodigy do when she's not wowing academics and saving endangered species? She's hanging out with her friends and her dog, Cuddles, and playing "Super Mario Brothers" on the Wii, just like every other kid.

Paige loves both babies and science, so she plans to combine those two passions and become a pediatrician, according to The Post. After that? She wants to one day move to a "classy" area of The Beltway, like Georgetown or Alexandria.

Paige's parents are understandably proud of their precocious progeny.

"I always saw potential in every kid, and it is just a matter of them seeing it in themselves," said Pam Epler, who was a high school teacher while her husband was in the Air Force. "As a parent, I am glad Paige can see her potential and has excelled. . . . We're really proud of her."

Correction, Oct. 1, 2009: An earlier version of this column appeared with additional comments from the college, which were supplied without permission of Paige's family. The college has retracted its original comments.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.