A 14-year-old freshman is making history this year as one of the youngest full-time students to attend GW.
Curtis Lawrence started the school year with the rest of the Class of 2023 after spending his freshman and sophomore years at the School Without Walls, a magnet high school on campus. During his second year there, Lawrence was accepted into the GW Early College Program, an excelled program that allows students during what would be their junior and senior years at School Without Walls to enroll as full-time GW students and earn tuition-free college credits.
The GW Early College Program includes two program offerings for School Without Walls students. The Exposure Program allows students from the high school with a GPA of at least a 3.0 to enroll in available GW courses for transferable college credit.
But Lawrence was accepted into the Associate of Arts Cohort, which enrolls 15 sophomores from School Without Walls into a full-time course load at GW to earn an associate of arts degree from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences while completing high school.
Despite his age, Lawrence said his previous schooling has prepared him for college-level classes. By the age of 2, Lawrence said his mother had taught him how to read and given him early math and science lessons. From first to third grade, he attended a predominantly black school for gifted students in Harlem, N.Y., he said.
“My mom just always pushed education, pushed advanced academics and especially being at the elementary school in Harlem, I was surrounded by other people who were advanced, so it just felt like the norm for me,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said his family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he skipped fourth grade and entered fifth grade at Idea Carver Academy. He said he passed sixth and seventh grades at different schools and was homeschooled during eighth grade, during which he also took his first college course – an introduction to African American studies class – at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
After middle school, his family moved to D.C., where he started high school at School Without Walls, the most popular magnet school in the District.
“I feel like I was prepared for the academics because Walls is a very rigorous high school, it’s the top high school in D.C., so a lot of the work that we did reflected the work that I’ll be doing here in college,” Lawrence said.
The 14-year-old jumped at the chance to involve himself in both academics and student organizations. He currently studies geology, calculus, astronomy and University Writing while participating in the Black Student Union, the African Student Association, the Caribbean Students Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Lawrence said.
Lawrence said he noticed that most peers are curious about his age when he walks into class and pick up conversations with him because they heard about him from other local news stories. He added that most professors know about the program and give him the same workload and responsibility as any other full-time student.
“On the first day, it was very weird because I am the youngest student,” he said. “I went into the class, it was my first class of the day, which was math, and everyone started staring at me as I sat down.”
Lawrence said that one of the toughest parts about adjusting to college is time management. His parents and professors are not around to help him navigate campus throughout the day, so Lawrence said he has needed to learn to be more independent at an early age.
“Here, I have two or three classes a day, I have two-hour breaks, which is extremely different than being in a traditional high school,” Lawrence said. “I’m still trying to get used to that part of managing my time.”
While Lawrence is a college student, he said he can still live out his typical teenage experiences like hanging out with friends from School Without Walls and grabbing a meal with high school classmates because the school is located on campus. Lawrence said he completes most of his work during breaks between classes, so he goes home to relax and enjoy hobbies like sci-fi and fantasy books, playing the piano and drawing.
“Most of the high school experience is replicated at GW for me in some kind of way,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence said he is thankful to himself and his parents for giving him a “love for learning” and the opportunity to advance himself academically. Lawrence hopes to obtain a doctorate degree in philosophy and pursue a career in paleontology once he wraps up his time at the University, he said.
“I’m definitely going to be thankful to myself for staying focused in class and staying interested in learning and never giving up on the learning process, because that is what has gotten me to this place,” Lawrence said.