A 13-year-old who graduated last week from a California community college with four associate degrees and a 4.0 GPA plans to continue his education at UNLV.
Jack Rico graduated in two years from Fullerton College in Southern California, becoming the youngest graduate in school history.
“It was a really fun and interesting experience,” Jack said Thursday by phone from his home in Whittier, near Los Angeles. “I didn’t really know what I was looking for at first.”
He said it was difficult and stressful at times, but he got through it.
Jack plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in history at UNLV, noting that’s what his mother studied in college.
“I’ve always been interested in history,” he says. “This is the story where we come from.”
Her mother, Ru Andrade, said the family travels to Utah several times a year and often stops in Las Vegas. Jack visited the UNLV campus and “he was sold right there,” she said.
First distance learning course
Jack plans to begin his UNLV experience by taking a remote summer course in early June.
This fall, the family plans to stay at a hotel in Las Vegas so Jack can attend his UNLV classes Monday through Wednesday. Andrade’s 15-year-old daughter – who is home-schooled – will come with them.
Three or four school-aged students attended UNLV during the fall 2019 semester, university officials said in December. This included two siblings from Las Vegas – 12-year-old Shenlone Wu and 13-year-old Shenmei Wu. It is not known how many young students will be attending school in the fall.
But UNLV spokesman Tony Allen said the university will do everything possible to make Jack feel at home.
“Jack is a remarkable young man with a bright future ahead of him, and we are thrilled he has chosen UNLV to continue his college journey,” Allen said. “We have a long history of Rebels achieving this by pursuing their dreams, no matter how big, and we look forward to welcoming Jack and his family to UNLV.”
As for Jack, he said he looked forward to taking a “variety of classes” at UNLV in history and other subjects, and exploring his options and interests. “I still haven’t figured out life yet,” he said.
Andrade said his son has been passionate about the story since he was a young child.
“He’s not a genius,” she said. “He works very hard. He loves information and likes to learn.
Outside of school, “he’s really 13 when it comes to gaming,” Andrade said, and he loves playing video games. “He’ll finish his job just to get to his video games as fast as he can.”
Jack also enjoys spending time with his cousins and sister, drawing, and doing activities with a homeschooling group.
“He came out smart”
Andrade said his son has always been smart. “He came out smart. He was always like an old soul.
When Jack was around third grade, Common Core State Standards were introduced and it was “something he really struggled with,” Andrade said.
Andrade decided to pursue home schooling, which “ended up being the right placement for him,” she said.
Homeschooling has given him plenty of time to learn and be creative, Andrade said, and to work on improving his areas of weakness.
By age 11, Jack had reached high school standards. Andrade heard that Fullerton College is allowing advanced students in the K-12 system who pass a placement test to enroll.
Jack started by taking just one course. Andrade asked her teacher if she could sit at the back of the class for the first two days, just to reassure him.
“He’s small for his age,” she said. “At 11, he looked like 6.”
I loved being in college
Jack quickly fell in love with being in college, Andrade said, and told her she no longer needed to sit in her class.
Jack attended summer school at Fullerton College and was enrolled full-time for three semesters.
Initially, his goal was to complete an associate’s degree, but he took courses in a variety of subjects and ended up completing four – in history; arts and human expression; social behavior and personal development; and social sciences.
“At 11, asking him to choose a major was a bit much,” Andrade said.
At the end of each semester, Andrade would reassess with Jack whether he wanted to take more classes. She wanted to make sure he wasn’t too stressed.
He was not. And now he’s leaving for UNLV.