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Former Lake Charles resident skips high school for college

Last Modified: Sunday, December 09, 2012 9:09 PM

By Nichole Osinski / American Press

Arianna Kropf was accepted to college at age 13 and was taking full-credit courses a year later. At 16 she is the vice president of the biology honors society Beta Beta Beta and is double majoring in biology and English.

Through the Program for Exceptionally Gifted, Kropf was able to bypass high school to pursue an undergraduate degree at Mary Baldwin College, a women-only university in Staunton, Va.

“She enjoys being busy and enjoys the challenge of harder classes,” said Kropf’s mother, Dana Kropf. “I’m really happy for her and being in an all-women’s college has helped her build her confidence as a woman and make her future bright.”

Arianna was born in Lake Charles and later moved to Raleigh, N.C., where she tested into the Duke University Talent Identification Program for academically gifted youth. But she was bored and frustrated with the courses and pace of middle school and, she said, “did not want to stay.”

Through TIP she was able to take the SATs in seventh grade for the chance to springboard her academic career to a higher level. After scoring exceptionally high she received letters from several universities offering her early college entry.

Once she was accepted into the Program for Exceptionally Gifted, Arianna was awarded a talent scholarship through the program for playing the violin.

Her grandparents, Pam and Robert of Moss Bluff, have been supportive of their granddaughter’s decision to start college at an early age.

“At first some people think it’s unusual to skip high school, but she’s so special,” said Pam. “She really did well to skip high school and to be where she’s at.”

Now a junior in college, Arianna has plans for after graduation with her sights set on attending medical school. Already, the 16-year-old is part of a research team on campus, and she has spent time perfecting techniques for culturing neurons.

“She’s got questions rolling around in her mind that are above and beyond,” said Paul A. Callo, a professor in the biology department who has had Arianna in several of his classes. “She’s quite an exceptional student in the regard that she always wants to learn more.”

She has also studied breast cancer cells and ways to try to decrease invasion. The research is important to her because both her grandmother and mother are breast cancer survivors. In addition, she is a teaching assistant for an entry-level biology class and holds a teaching session for other students once a week.

But even with her full-time involvement at the university there is still a feeling of being separate from students who are not in the PEG. “We feel perpetually separated from those who are older,” Arianna said. “You are constantly thinking to yourself, ‘Do they know that you’re 14 or 15?’ ”

But Arianna, who just received her driver’s license, enjoys university life and the responsibility it gives her. She lives in her own apartment off campus, has a job, volunteers, and does yoga when there is time to spare.

“You have to be emotionally prepared, and you have to be socially prepared,” she said. “I’m really lucky to be here and involved in the research. The first time I was here I loved it, and the program is somewhat like a surrogate family — it’s just a bunch of girls who felt the same way you did.”

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