Starting when Jeremiah Hovsepian was about 4 years old, his father, Greg Bearce, would read science encyclopedias to him at night instead of more traditional bedtime stories.
Bearce thought Jeremiah would benefit from an introduction to science, and Bearce certainly found reading the encyclopedias more interesting than reading Dr. Seuss, he said.
The early exposure to science translated into an interest in the subject for Jeremiah, who is now 13. When he was in first grade, he gave monthly science presentations to his classmates. And when he was 9, he attended Space Camp in Alabama to learn about math, science and the life of an astronaut.
Jeremiah’s ahead-of-the-curve relationship with science continues this week as he starts a college-level oceanography class at Glendale Community College.
He is one of the youngest students to be granted enrollment in the college in the last few years, said Sharon Combs, the college’s dean of admissions and records. Combs estimated that no more than a dozen students Jeremiah’s age had been accepted into the college in the last five years.
Jeremiah lives in Glendale and is in eighth grade at Village Christian Schools in Sun Valley. In the fall, he started talking with his parents about doing a more advanced science class outside of his regular school environment.
Her son was happy at his school, his mother, Yvette Hovsepian Bearce said, but wanted to test the waters in a bigger academic pond, so the family began discussing where he might be able to find a new intellectual challenge.
“I really like science, so I just wanted to see how it was to take more advanced classes and to see if I like it,” Jeremiah said.
He and his family looked into the science programs at Pasadena City College and Glendale Community College, but decided on the program in Glendale because Hovsepian Bearce had studied there in the late 1980s and had a positive experience, and because they thought it was important for Jeremiah to be engaged in his local community.
In the fall, Jeremiah and his mother went to the college to talk to teachers and administrators about potentially enrolling him in a class.
“We have to make sure that any of our students who are underage understand what they’re getting into,” college President Audre Levy said.
Jeremiah and his mother met with Combs and Poorna Pal, the professor whose oceanography class Jeremiah was interested in taking. Combs and Pal asked about Jeremiah’s motivation for taking the class, and explained the differences between taking classes in college versus junior high or high school, Hovsepian Bearce said.
“[Pal] challenged Jeremiah many different ways on the same issue,” she said. “He also wanted to know if his parents were pushing him.”
Jeremiah said he simply explained that he was doing this because of his own interest and initiative, and he was ready to work hard and step temporarily into an adult’s world.
Combs was impressed by Jeremiah’s maturity and his ability to articulate his thoughts, she said. His grades were stellar, too, so the college decided he should be allowed to enroll, she said.
“He sailed through with flying colors,” Combs said about the interview process.
Having young students like Jeremiah in a college class adds another dimension of diversity to the learning environment, and other students benefit as a result, Combs said.
“It is surprising how the student works up to the level of the other college students, and the college students look at this student with great respect,” she said.
Jeremiah’s first oceanography class met on Tuesday. And from now until mid-April, Jeremiah will attend the three-hour class at the college each Tuesday after a full day at his regular school.
On the evening before his first class, Jeremiah said he was at ease with his decision.
“I’ll probably finish, and when I do it will probably give me a sense of accomplishment,” Jeremiah said. “It will encourage me to do other things no one else has tried.”
Jeremiah’s parents said they hoped Jeremiah’s story would be motivational and inspirational to others, and encourage them to try new things and take leaps of faith, even if it meant facing challenges at a young age.
“I think it says that there’s probably no limits,” Bearce said.
ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at email@example.com.