Graduating from college is an achievement worth celebrating, but for recent graduate Jack Rico, it’s an extraordinary feat. That’s because he did it at only 13 years old. Aside from the age factor, what makes this accomplishment unlike no other is that Jack graduated with four associate’s degrees – which he earned in just two years.
The teen graduated from Fullerton College last month and made history as the youngest student to achieve something like that in the institution’s 107-year-old history.
Majoring in one course is challenging enough, but for Jack, he studied history, human expression, social behavior, and social science, all while maintaining a GPA of 4.0.
“I just love learning new stuff,” he told CNN. “I love knowing more about the world and all the different things we could study.”
Jack is the youngest among the community college’s 21,000 students, so it’s no surprise that he stands out from the crowd. However, he’s glad that his schoolmates treat him like any other student. In fact, he’s made some friends along the way.
“It is not typical to have such a young student take classes, so Jack is pretty well known on the Fullerton College campus,” Fullerton College President Greg Schulz told CNN. “Jack is wise beyond his years, and I’m so pleased that he found a home and place to excel at Fullerton College.”
Jack credits his incredible achievement of finishing four associate’s degrees to proper time management and listening to his teachers.
Ru Andrade, Jack’s mom, said that she knew her son was gifted from the time he was a toddler. When he was about to celebrate his fourth birthday, she asked him about what gift he wanted. While other children would ask for toys or a trip to Disneyland, Jack’s request was a bit unconventional – he wanted to see the White House.
“I told him that was a really big trip for a three-year-old,” Ru said. “Just kidding around, I said, ‘If you can memorize all the presidents, I’ll take you.’”
A week later, Jack came up to her and gave her more than what she expected. The boy revealed that he already knew the presidents, but he did the extra work of memorizing all the vice presidents so they could go. That’s when Ru knew that her boy was already smarter than her.
When Jack was in third grade, they found that he was too advanced for the common core, so Ru decided to homeschool him as the boy needed more of a challenge.
“He was thriving,” she said. “About 11 years old, there was nothing more I could teach him. He had pretty much blown through all the standards.”
Ru learned that Fullerton College had a bridge program for students K-12 who could pass a placement test. Jack took the exam, and the institution welcomed him as their new student a few days later. Initially, Ru sat in the classroom with him until he felt comfortable enough to be on his own.
The teen was able to get a free education at Fullerton as a “special admit student,” a unique benefit in the California Community College system.
Jack went on to complete 61 units at Fullerton. Graduating from college was supposed to be his first official graduation, but because of COVID-19, the college’s 105th commencement celebration had to be postponed.
“I was a little sad and disappointed because I never had a graduation,” Jack said.
Of course, his family and friends wouldn’t let the boy down, so they did a drive-by graduation parade for him instead.
When Jack isn’t busy studying, he likes to play video games, play with his cousins, travel, and learn about ancient history. Ru appreciates how much of a hard worker her son is, but what makes her most proud is his good heart.
“He does work really hard, but what we’re most proud of is his heart,” she said. “He’s an amazing human. His sister has autism and he’s been the best brother ever.”
After this teen wonder earned four associate’s degrees, Jack plans to study history at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, where he received a full scholarship. He will be making the four-hour commute going there once a week with his mom.
Jack knows he’s more advanced than most teens his age, but he acknowledges that he’s still just a kid.
“I’m 13 right now so I don’t really have the whole life thing figured out,” he said.
When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he responded, “I’m still trying to explore my interests and learn what I want to do in life.”
For now, Jack is enjoying the summer playing video games and having petty arguments with his sister.
Learn more about Jack’s story by watching the video below from NCBLA.
Undoubtedly, this teen has a bright future ahead of him. Congratulations, Jack Rico!