At a time when other 18-year-olds are getting ready to graduate from high school, Hyattsville resident Clarita Frazier already has college behind her and is about to enter medical school.
The former High Point High School student graduated cum laude from Howard University Saturday and will begin attending the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore next month.
She is believed to be one of a small number of teen-agers in the country poised to begin medical studies, for last year only 11 of 16,395 students entering medical school were 18 or younger, the Association of American Medical Colleges found.
"It's no big deal, really," Frazier maintained. "In high school, when people found out how old I was, they were shocked. But when they got to know me, they'd say, 'Hey, she's all right. She's normal.' "
But if Frazier makes light of her accomplishments, her friends and teachers do not.
"If I had a magic lantern and could wish for a student, Claire would come out," said Sheila Braxton, Frazier's 11th-grade English teacher at High Point.
"I've had accelerated students who couldn't adjust socially, but Claire was always a very poised young lady. To look at her, to talk to her, to read her work, you'd never know she was two years younger" than her classmates, Braxton said.
"She was with her peers even though she was not their chronological age."
Frazier skipped the first and sixth grades. Her parents said the first move was easy, but deciding to let her skip sixth grade was troublesome. "We were concerned that she might be moving a little too fast for her social and psychological development," said her father, Theodore G. Frazier Sr.
But, "Claire had already been reading sixth grade books anyway, and she wanted to move on, so we decided not to get in the way of her natural ability," he said.
There were times that the age difference was a problem, particularly when her friends were able to stay out late at parties and she could not, Theodore Frazier said. But "I knew I just had to deal with it," she said. "If I sat at home filled with resentment, I'd have a pretty terrible life. I knew my parents were just looking out for my best interests."
She graduated from Howard in three years by taking heavy course loads and attending summer school.
She will enter a pediatric psychiatry program at Maryland, and she hopes as a professional to help children cope with the special pressures of being accelerated through school.
"I think psychiatry is something I can be my best at," she said. "We are all cut out for different things, and I know this is my field."