Boy, 13, will graduate high school in May with two associates degrees | SKYCTC

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Boy, 13, will graduate high school in May with two associates degrees


William Poteet holding sign that says #WKU2021
Photo by Daily News Photographer

By Aaron Mudd Bowling Green Daily News

Like many 13-year-olds, William Poteet plays video games and helps out at church, but his above-average intelligence has put him on track to graduate in May with his high school diploma and two associate's degrees.

At age 6, William was identified as highly gifted. Now, he's been admitted to Western Kentucky University's class of 2021, even before being old enough to get his driver's permit.

"He just thinks differently and always has," said Catherine Poteet, William's mother.

Although he loves physics and excels in all his subjects, William has a passion for math. He could add and subtract at age 2, multiply and divide by age 3 and, as a second-grader, solve algebraic equations. After skipping a few grades and finishing out his sixth-grade year at Foundation Christian Academy, he started at Southern Kentucky Community and Technical College with a trigonometry course at the age of 10.

"Many of the classes challenge me and a few of them don t," said William, who's also taking high-level calculus. "Many of the English classes also challenge me. I m not as gifted on that side. ... It s more abstract, and math, it has a bit of a firm foundation of what you can and can t do."

As a mom, Catherine Poteet never expected to see her son attending a college-level math course at such a young age, but she doesn't regret the choices she's made regarding her son's education. He was miserable in a standard K-12 setting, she said.

"It was very obvious that this was the path that we needed to take," she said.

When he was younger, he couldn't understand why other students weren't as gifted as he was.

"Very early on I was bullied because of my giftedness," William said, adding it's since gotten better.

"It really isn t too much of an issue," he said. "I think part of it was me getting out of that school setting.

Julia Roberts, WKU's executive director of the Center for Gifted Studies, agrees and said William is flourishing in his learning environment.

"We often think of academic needs as being created by a deficiency, something that needs to be done," she said. "What happens with gifted children is that their education needs are created by their strengths."

A gifted student might not necessarily need to skip a grade, Roberts said, instead they could be allowed access to special classes or allowed to read at another grade level. The key is trying different approaches until finding what works, she said.

"The goal of course of school is for every child to be learning every day," she said. "If you already know it. it s not possible to learn it."

In Kentucky, access to gifted education for students remains a barrier, Roberts said. State funding for gifted education has been the same as it was in 1990, despite cost increases in providing it.

However, Roberts is happy that William has found his footing "because what I think William has been able to do is so right for him."

As a parent of a highly gifted son, the Center for Gifted Studies comes as a godsend for Poteet.

"They have been wonderful, wonderful support going through all of this," she said.

Programs it organizes, like Super Saturdays and its summer program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth, have "have been wonderful for William to see that he s not alone," Poteet said.

"For a long time when he was younger that s what he felt like," she said.

Looking ahead, William doesn't feel rushed into figuring out what to do with his life, although he has ideas of becoming an actuary or a mathematics professor.

When she considers whether her son is missing out on an average school experience, Poteet answers with a confident "no."

"I can t say that I feel like he s missing something because he s gained so much more," she said