High school seniors speak on significance of graduation
Just 11 days after walking across the stage at his high school graduation ceremony, 17-year-old Braxton Moral will graduate from Harvard University, The Garden City Telegram reported.
This Kansas teen is the first and only student to earn a high school diploma and Harvard degree at the same time, according to the synopsis of the book he is writing: “Harvard in the Heartland.”
Braxton went to Ulysses High School in western Kansas while working on a bachelor of arts in government and a minor in English from the private Ivy League school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Wichita Eagle previously reported.
He took about 16 online credit hours from Harvard each semester, the Eagle reported, and for two summers he took a few Harvard classes in person, on campus.
Braxton was able to do so through the Harvard Extension School, which was suggested by Duke University’s Talent Identification Program.
The extension school is “designed for a working adult population” — and the average student age is 32 (almost twice the age of Braxton), according to its website.
Braxton may be the last student to complete the undergraduate degree program at the same time as a typical high school career, as the program now has a minimum age of 21.
“Academically talented students” can still take undergraduate credit with the Harvard Extension School if they are at least 15 years old, the website says, but they will not be able to officially earn a Harvard degree while still a teen.
Braxton is fortunate he was able to accomplish both at the same time.
“It’s worked out pretty great, actually,” Braxton told the Eagle in December. “This has allowed me to get an education and get a little bit ahead of the game while not losing out on any of the normal school stuff (including prom, tennis and student council).”
That “normal school stuff” was important to Braxton.
“I had this fearful dream of ending up this socially awkward person,” he previously told the Eagle, while laughing. “I didn’t want to wake up one day and have no friends, so I decided to go with an experience that allowed me to have a normal life.”
And while Braxton has gotten used to being compared to Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory,” he wants you to know he’s “normal ... not that different.”
“It’s my eternal fight to convince people of that,” he said.
His family knows he isn’t just an average student, though.
“When he was little, his vocabulary was extraordinary,” his older sister Brittney Jo Seger said, according to CNN. “Something my mom, sister and I noticed early on was his memory. That’s one of the things that makes him incredible. But he can look at anything or read anything, and he will instantly remember it forever.”
He even skipped the fourth grade — but that still wasn’t challenging enough, the Eagle reported. He took his first Harvard class when he was 11 years old.
“I’ve been going to Harvard now half as long as I’ve been going to regular school, so it’s really become a part of my life,” Braxton told the New York Times in December. “To see the conclusion and the results and the rewards of that, it’s a really an exciting prospect for me.”
His parents had to miss his high school graduation on May 19 — and they may miss his Harvard one, too — as his mom, Julie, got her much-needed kidney transplant the Wednesday before the Ulysses ceremony, the Telegram reported.
“It’s hard to be unhappy with the blessings we have now,” Moral said when asked about his parents missing the commencement, according to the newspaper.
Braxton’s book, “Harvard in the Heartland,” is set to be published by a Kansas-based publisher in August, the Telegram reported.
“The reader will have a glimpse into the ups and downs of his journey,” according to the synopsis.
It will tell how Braxton, an “intellectually gifted boy from a small farming town in Western Kansas was able to break away from the constraints of a typical small-town education, and graduate from both a small rural Kansas high school and Harvard University Extension School at the same time.”