Class of 2014 Success Stories: Double graduate
Firelands teen earns associate degree along with high school diploma.
By Dean Schnurr
Spring 2014 has been an exciting time for Thomas Chapman, Bowling Green State University Firelands College student. He turned 18, which is a major milestone is any teen’s life, he will graduate from Edison High School and he will be earning an associate degree from BGSU Firelands with 100 credit hours.
Thomas is enrolled at BGSU Firelands through the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP), which enables ambitious students to take high school classes concurrently with college courses. Though many area students select this option, and a handful take enough classes to earn an associate degree while in high school, it is extremely rare to finish high school with 100 credit hours – the equivalent of being a college senior.
“I wanted to challenge myself academically,” Chapman said. “When I was in 8th grade I decided to take PSEOP classes, but I did not foresee myself in this position upon high school graduation.”
During his freshman year, Chapman took only one evening class at Firelands, but he knew he had latched onto something that appealed to him. During his sophomore year he shifted his class load exclusively to the college campus and retained that status for the next three years.
“I much prefer the college environment. It is one of greater intrinsic challenge and value, all the while surpassing high school in its degree of flexibility,” said Chapman, who carries a 4.0 grade point average in both his high school and college courses.
He admits that it was ultimately logistical obstacles that proved most challenging. Having no driver’s license for the first two years at Firelands, he had to rely on others to get to campus.
“It was worth the extra effort,” said Thomas’ father Charles, who often drove his son to class.
“We felt it was important to allow him to reach his potential academically. Often that meant he could not participate in the things other high school students were doing, but college is something he deemed to be of greater importance,” added the elder Chapman.
An alumnus of the BGSU Firelands business administration program, Chapman’s father provided much more than a mode of transportation. Chapman credits his father for encouraging him to enroll in college courses at an early age, and for directing him to Firelands.
“As a former student, I knew BGSU Firelands was safe, welcoming, and that the professors were excellent. I had no worries about sending Thomas to the college at such an early age,” said Charles.
Even with the welcoming environment of BGSU Firelands, Chapman initially was a bit concerned about announcing his age to his fellow students.
“I prefer that others judge me based upon measures of actual value,” he explained. “I would never make it a point to reveal my age, rather, I allowed others to measure me on values such as intelligence, character, and the method in which I carried myself. I have yet to receive a negative response upon revealing my age.”
More often than not, Chapman sticks out in a group of students because of his iconic attire – a fedora and sports coat – more so than his youthful appearance or maturity level.
Chapman became increasing more involved in student activities through his four-year tenure at Firelands, and he grew more comfortable with his older, fellow students. He has participated in dozens of projects and fundraisers and his peers validated his inclusion into their ranks by electing him to serve as Student Government Secretary for the 2013-14 academic year.
“He possesses a balance of intelligence, knowledge, and understanding that is on par with any Ivy League student, said Professor Chris Mruk, Chapman’s abnormal psychology instructor and mentor. “Even more striking is that Thomas demonstrates a degree of maturity and compassion often seen in a gifted, not ordinary, leader,”
Chapman will earn an associate of science degree from BGSU Firelands and plans to attend main campus next fall. His long-term plans include earning a doctoral degree in psychology, which, if he continues his current educational pace, he could complete by the age of 21.
Although his chosen education path has been difficult at times, he would be quick to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.
“My advice to future high school students - always be serious about your education; treat it as the valuable opportunity that it is.”