FAMILY & PARENTING

Most Determined 13-Year-Old Boy Ever Just Earned His Fourth Associate Degree

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Sure, your kid may be smart. But it might be hard for them to match 13-year-old Jack Rico. Not only is Jack the youngest graduate at Fullerton College, but he literally has the world open to him in regard to his future career.

Jack lives in California and has managed to rack up four different associate degrees, making history at his college. It’s incredible to think about all he’s done without thinking about the milestones he has yet to complete. For one, he has yet to take his driver’s test. Secondly, he’s underage, so he missed out on some of the nightlife activities his peers likely participated in. Still, he doesn’t seem too upset.

According to his mom, who spoke to People magazine, she had a feeling he was gifted when he was just around 3 years old.

At that age, he asked his mom to take him to the White House for his next birthday. “I told him that was a big trip for a little guy, and that I would take him if he could learn all the presidents,” she joked. But Jack took that request seriously.

His response was something that nobody could expect. “A week later he said, ‘Mom, I have a confession to make. I already knew all the presidents, but I learned all the vice presidents if that will still count?'”At the age of 3, most children are learning about seasons and the days of the week. Jack was focused on something greater.

While he was smart, he was having issues in a public school setting. So his mom worked on homeschooling him. The atmosphere worked out well for them. But when he was just 11, his needs seemed to have changed a little bit, and his mom realized the arrangement was no longer ideal.

“When he was 11, I knew he needed more of a challenge and a better teacher than me,” she said. So she enlisted him into Fullerton College’s Bridge Program. Typically, the program accepts children between kindergarten and 12th grade. Jack started out with one class.

From there, Jack thrived. “He started out just taking one class and he absolutely loved it,” his mom said. “He just kept requesting taking more and more classes.” And that’s how he ended up earning such an impressive amount of degrees. He loved the idea of learning.

Like many students, he was unable to have a graduation ceremony this year. But he does have plans to move forward. He’s already set to begin school at the University of Nevada this fall. It might not come as a surprise, but he reportedly received a full scholarship.

Curious about his IQ? According to family members, it’s not necessarily the fact that he’s smart. They note that he’s a really hard worker, which has helped tremendously. “Jack is not a genius, he just works really hard,” his mom said. “We are so happy for Jack and all his academic accomplishments, however, he is an even more awesome human being. He has a sister with autism that he has just been an amazing brother to.”

Jack is in it because he has a love of learning — and that’s one of the most important points. No matter what career path he chooses, he’ll likely always make a point to continue expanding his mind. It’s something that all of us should be doing — there’s always plenty of stuff out there to study.

“I just love learning new stuff,” Jack told CNN. “I love knowing more about the world and all the different things we could study.” His community college reportedly had 21,000 other students. However, out of everyone, Jack really stood out from the crowd because of his young age.

“It is not typical to have such a young student take classes, so Jack is pretty well known on the Fullerton College campus,” Fullerton College President Greg Schulz said to CNN. “Jack is wise beyond his years, and I’m so pleased that he found a home and place to excel at Fullerton College.” It’s great to know that Jack didn’t let his age distract him from his classes. It can be pretty intimidating for a 13-year-old.

Jack’s next area of study will be history. But he doesn’t know if that’s what he wants to focus on for the rest of his life. And that’s completely OK — not many 13-year-olds have that figured out just yet. “I’m still trying to explore my interests and learn what I want to do in life,” he told CNN.

Jack really is an inspiration to everyone. He’s showcasing that, sometimes, you don’t need to know all the answers to get ahead. He’s thriving by living in the moment and learning everything he can with the resources he has available to him. And in doing so, his future is wide open.

Oftentimes, many of us feel so pressured to answer the question of what we’re doing with the rest of our lives. And if we don’t have the answer, we may feel like we’re failures. Instead, we could spend that time expanding our interests and figuring it out. We could learn about what we like and don’t like through experience.

Jack also proves that hard work will get you far. His success doesn’t necessarily come from being smart — he’s also a hard worker. He learned how to manage his time and take on all of his responsibilities flawlessly. That in itself is a skill that not many people can master until later in life.

Jack’s mom never seemed to push him. Instead, she sat back and watched him thrive once he was in the programs that worked best for him. Sometimes, we just need to see what our children are naturally interested in and give them all the tools they need to explore. Jack’s success came not only from the school but also from his mom for believing in him.