IRVING, Texas. May 10, 2011 — Samir Patel was just 13 years old in fall 2007 when he stepped onto the North Lake College campus for the first time. Home schooled by his mother, the high school freshman was in search of more educational opportunities, like learning labs, to enhance his home studies.
Because of his age, the Director of College Programs Marissa Kirk was hesitant to enroll him in the Dual Credit program at NLC, where students can earn both college and high school credit at the same time.
“Initially, I was concerned about admitting Samir at age 13, since the norm is to accept juniors and seniors,” Kirk said. “However, I changed my mind within a few minutes as he enthusiastically discussed his pursuits and goals. It was clear that despite his youth, he had tremendous potential and was exceptionally high in maturity, communication skills and intellect, more so than many average college students.”
Kirk’s decision proved to be a win-win situation for the college and for Patel. On May 7, Patel, 17, graduated from North Lake with an associate degree in science after amassing 84 hours of credits that include calculus, organic chemistry, biology, chemistry, physics and trigonometry.
Not bad for a kid still in high school, who didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do with his life when he entered the halls of academia at age 13, taking 7 credits the first semester and 13 the next.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I came to North Lake until I took my first biology class with Professor [Mike] Huddleston,” said Patel. “I especially loved his lectures on genetics.”
Genetics so impressed him that he wanted to major in the field, but that all changed when he took chemistry from Professors Christopher McAdams and Patricia Thompson. That’s when he changed his major to biochemistry.
“Without the professors and faculty at NLC, I probably wouldn’t have been driven to accomplish what I have,” he said. “They encouraged me to go into the science field and talked to me about all the different fields of science that I could go into.” “I never felt like any of them treated me any differently than they would treat other students, even though I was obviously far younger,” said Patel. “They still gave me the attention and respect that they gave to their adult students.”
At NLC, he was active outside the classroom as well as in, holding officer positions in Phi Theta Kappa and Mu Alpha Theta, serving as a volunteer student assistant for DMAT courses, and as a private tutor. He has also been a contributing writer for the college newspaper, the News-Register.
Prior to coming to NLC, Patel had achieved notoriety as a spelling bee competitor at the grade school and middle school level, ages 9-13. He competed five times in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was televised on ESPN. Although he never won first place, he placed second one year and third another, becoming the youngest contestant to win those positions.
Patel, who has a 4.0 GPA, will receive his high school diploma within days of graduating with an associate degree from North Lake College. He plans to achieve his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry by age 19, then pursue a master’s degree and a Ph.D in chemical engineering.
In the fall, he is headed to the University of Texas at Dallas with full support to work toward his major of biochemistry. He has specific reasons for choosing UT-Dallas: “They have really good research labs and they are working on cutting-edge developments in materials science, specifically with the applications of carbon nano tubes in areas such as computer circuitry, as well as potential medical applications of thermoplastics,” he said.
For the first time in his life, Patel will be moving out of his parents’ home, and he is looking forward to moving to Richardson, living in a dorm at UT-Dallas and concentrating on his biochemistry classes. As he also moves away from the halls of North Lake College, he says he won’t forget the people at NLC who helped him get where he is today.
North Lake College is a member of the Dallas County Community College system. Educational opportunities are offered by the Dallas County Community College system without regard to race, color, age, national origin, religion, sex or sexual orientation.