Monday, March 5, 2007
Moments after his geology class ends, Terence Candell Jr. calls his father. "I got my papers back today and I did pretty good," he says. His dad is proud of his hard work.
Terence asks to be picked up in 20 minutes. "Okay, see you then. I love you, too," he tells his dad.
Dressed in baggy clothing he has yet to grow into, Terence walks toward the plaza of his school in Hayward, California, near San Francisco. A gentle breeze picks up the braided tail of hair he has been growing since he was 3 -- about the time he began to read and write.
He takes short strides as he crosses the grounds of California State University, East Bay. Other students drive to and from school. Terence can't. At age 12, he's not old enough.
He entered college in 2005 as a 10-year-old, wanting to be a veterinarian or astronaut. Now he is exploring a career in mass communications.
Sally Murphy, a college official, helps Terence plan his schedule. "I try to have him take classes that interest him and that aren't too late in the night or too early in the morning," she says. "I also try to match him with faculty who I feel would be sympathetic to how [a 12-year-old] may think."
Terence began reading and writing to gain his dad's attention. "I just remember . . . picking up one of those Reader Rabbit books and reading," he says. "I don't know how, but I did it."
When he was 4 and in first grade, he was in trouble a lot. The teacher said he had a learning disability. "That wasn't the case at all," he says. "I'd get all the work done in 10 minutes because I found it easy. I would get bored, so I just tried to make my classmates laugh."
By age 6, he was doing high school-level work and began attending a private school founded by his father. "My dad just knew what I needed and how to challenge me," he says.
After high school, the logical next step was college. Terence's parents weren't sure he was ready, but didn't want to hold him back.
Terence got accepted at Cal State, East Bay. "We were frightened," his dad says, "and for the longest time we decided we weren't going to send him to college. But everyone . . . was telling us we had to let him go."
So they did.
Despite Terence's success in college -- his first report card had A's, B's and one C -- he regrets that studying takes away time with family and friends. "If I could do it over again, I probably wouldn't have gone" to college so young, he says.
He has struggled to make friends and has been treated unkindly by some students, Murphy says.
"He's one of the world's most enthusiastic learners. He raises his hand to answer every question and usually has the right answers," she says. "When a couple of 18-, 19-year-olds who are doing as little as possible are being showed up by someone much younger . . . it bothers them."
But Terence isn't fazed. He focuses on what got him to college so young: a passion for learning. "When I find something that interests me, I just want to explore and learn more about it," he says.
-- Kristofer Noceda