Monday, May 9, 2011

Young WSU grad deals with praise, flak

Article by Kelsey Husky/Moscow-Pullman Daily News

     Things come naturally to 16-year-old Kayla Heard.
     "It's a God-given gift," she said. "Ever since I can remember, it's been this way."
     Heard is the youngest student on record to graduate from Washington State University. She's walking in commencement today with a degree in history and political science.
     She completed her degree as a distance learner in Union, Wash., and was homeschooled before that.
     What sets her apart is that she could talk by her first birthday and was reading at 18 months. She started first grade at age 3, graduated from high school at 10 and began community college at 11.
     What makes her normal is that she hangs out with friends, plays computer games, modifies her computer and enjoys sci-fi TV shows.
     The teenager has caught the attention of many - for the last week, she's been talking to various media outlets about her accomplishments, including Seattle TV stations KING5 and KIRO.
     She said the interviews were scary the first few times, but now, she's used to it. To her, it's just like a normal conversation now.
     However, the public hasn't been the most friendly.
     Heard said she's had mixed responses to her story. Some come up to her on the street and say she's inspiring.
     "If people do think that this is extraordinary, they want to pay attention to me and put me in the limelight, I'm fine with that," she said, but she doesn't crave attention.
     Others criticize. She said there's no reason to let it affect her personally, though.
     "We're just going with the flow with this," she said.
     Criticism includes the idea that she's missing out on certain freedoms, such as hanging out at the mall. But she has a different take on what freedom means.
More...     Heard said teenage-years freedom can't be compared to the freedom you have as an adult in the working world, and the only way to have that freedom is to work hard now.
     Instant gratification isn't as fun as long-term fun as an adult, she said.
     She advises younger generations to be responsible now and "focus on getting good grades and creating stable bases for their lives now."
     Others criticize her homeschooling - people are saying she's confined to her room.
     In actuality, she's traveled to Asia multiple times and across the United States.
     Homeschooling has given her the opportunity to see more of the world and experience more, she said.
     The lack of peer pressure she's had has allowed her to create a venue for self-expression and individuality, she said.
     The personable, fashionable teen plays the guitar and piano and sings.
     She said most would be surprised to know she loves rock music, such as Linkin Park and Green Day, as well as Christian music like Skillet.
     Heard describes herself as logistic and opinionated, which she said works well with her political science studies.
     "It gives me a chance to learn more about societal issues," she said. She enjoys studying legislation and society on a deeper level.
     Heard plans to take distance courses for law school and earn a master's degree in the future as well.
     Until then, she'll continue to sing with her church's worship team. She'll hike and fish, as well as create digital art and photography.
     Her friends will treat her like an ordinary person, just as they always have.

Reprinted with the permission of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News

1 comment:

  1. After reading about Ms. Heard's inspiring story and just finishing the equally inspiring story of Dr. Yvonne Thornton in her first book, "DITCHDIGGER'S DAUGHTERS," I'm more convinced than ever that Ms. Heard is going to go farther & faster than most bc she is focused, self-disciplined, and works hard to learn all she can. She doesn't have to waste time in a public school, which is boring to most young people, bc she can escalate her learning as fast and as in depth, or not, as she needs and wants. She has the FREEDOM to learn and to LOVE Learning. It sounds like she is doing an outstanding job!