8 of the Youngest Black College Graduates You Should Know

Some of these gifted children started taking classes before they could even legally drive.

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Top: Ola Orekunrin, Gabrielle Turnquest, Anne-Marie Imafidon, Polite Stewart Jr. Bottom: Cortlan Wickliff, Brittney Exline, James Martin, Thessalonika Arzu-Embry.

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College is often seen as the beginning of a young person’s path into adulthood, but apparently these eight young black geniuses couldn’t wait. Some of these young college graduates began taking classes before they were legally able to drive. While hitting the books in law, medicine and science, these young graduates have broken records.

1. Thessalonika Arzu-Embry

She’s not old enough to have a learner’s permit, but Illinois resident Arzu-Embry graduated from Chicago State University at the age 14 in 2013. In college since the age of 11, Arzu-Embry maintained a 3.9 GPA with a major in psychology. With college under her belt, she plans on pursuing graduate education in psychology.

2. Cortlan Wickliff

At the age of 22, Wickliff became the second-youngest black man to finish Harvard University Law School. Wickliff was admitted into college at the age of 14, first completing coursework at the University of North Texas and then going on to graduate from Rice University. Now that he’s solidified his place in Harvard Law’s history, he’s pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering from Texas A&M University.

3. Anne-Marie Imafidon

As part of “Britain’s brainiest family,” Imafidon has a lot to live up to. By the age of 15, Imafidon was admitted to Oxford University. At 20 she went on to finish her master’s at Oxford, making her the youngest master’s graduate in the school’s history. Known as a STEM expert, Imafidon has gone on to found STEMettes, a program to foster women’s development in the science and technology fields.

4. Polite Stewart Jr.

Stewart—one of The Root’s Young Futurists in 2013-—is believed to be the youngest graduate in Southern University and A&M College’s history. After enrolling at the Baton Rouge, La., university at age 14, Stewart graduated at 18 with a degree in physics.

5. Ola Orekunrin

After the tragic death of her sister, Orekunrin decided that she would dedicate herself to emergency-medical work in Nigeria. With her medical degree in hand at the age of 21, London-raised Orekunrin went on to found the first air-operated medical services in Nigeria, Flying Doctors Nigeria.

6. Brittney Exline

After being admitted to the University of Pennsylvania at the age of 15, Exline became the youngest African American to attend an Ivy League school. Her bachelor’s degree under her belt, Exline became the youngest black engineer at the age of 19. Exline currently works as a software engineer.

7. James Martin

Known to refer to himself as “lazy,” Martin—a 2014 Young Futurist—began college at 14. With a major in molecular biology, Martin maintained a 3.9 GPA. Since graduating from Florida Atlantic University at the age of 17, Martin has gone on to work as a research technician for a Nobel laureate at Princeton University. He plans to pursue graduate study in molecular biology.

8. Gabrielle Turnquest

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Gabrielle Turnquest    

The University of Law

Nineteen-year-old Turnquest has had the pleasure of making history twice. First, at age 16, she became the youngest graduate of Liberty University in Virginia. In 2013, at age 18, Turnquest became the youngest person to ever pass the U.K. bar exam. The newly minted barrister plans to become a fashion-law specialist and recently finished her studies at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.

Diamond Sharp is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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