Girl, 12, youngest student to graduate from Florida community college

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A South Florida community college student owns an associate’s degree with a concentration in biological science, has a 4.0 grade-point average -- and she’s only 12 years old.

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Sawsan Ahmed graduated from Broward College on Wednesday, becoming the youngest graduate in the school’s 61-year history, the Miami Herald reported. The previous mark was held by a 15-year-old, according to the newspaper.

Ahmed will attend the University of Florida in January, where she will study microbiology and cell science, according to the Herald.

“It was awesome. I’m so happy,” Sawsan told the newspaper said after the graduation ceremony.

She said her favorite part of her ceremony was when Broward College President Gregory Adam Haile recognized her on stage.

“Thank you, Sawsan, you have helped us demonstrate that Broward College can support the dreams, regardless of age or academic pursuits,” Haile said.

Ahmed was only 10 when she attended her first in-person biology lab on campus, WTVJ-TV reported.

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During the lab, the professor asked students to find an object and swab it for bacteria. While most students wiped their desks or cellphone, Ahmed pulled out her white teddy bear, Ben, and swabbed it, the Herald reported.

One of Ahmed’s puzzled classmates then asked her age.

“Ten,” she said.

“The first course that I took in person and the only course I took in person was my biology lab, and everyone was staring at me the entire time,” Ahmed told WSVN-TV.

At first glance, Ahmed looks like many other 12-year-old girls. She wears ponytails styled by her mother, enjoys video games like Minecraft and Disney movies, the Herald reported.

Ahmed enrolled at Broward College in January 2018, choosing dual enrollment so she could receive her high school diploma at the same time, the newspaper reported.

When she applied at the college, the computer drop-down menu for students’ year of birth stopped at 2006; Ahmed was born Jan. 14, 2009, according to the Herald.

When her mother, Jeena Santos Ahmed, who has a Ph.D from Brown University, took her to the campus to get her college ID, people assumed the girl had simply tagged along.

They were wrong.

In June 2021, her father, Wesam Ahmed, an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Weston, was transferred to the clinic’s center in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the Herald reported. Sawsan Ahmed continued her education remotely; she will take part in the University of Florida’s online program and travel to the campus during the summer to participate in lab classes, the newspaper reported.

“There’s a study showing at artificial intelligence is more accurate than a radiologist at detecting cancer, so I want to someday, discover technology like that could potentially save many lives at one,” Sawsan Ahmed told WSVN.

Asked if she had any regrets about her rapid rise through college at such a young age, Sawsan Ahmed said no.

“There’s definitely nothing I’m missing out on,” she told the Herald. “I still get to do a lot of things people my age do. Going to college has just been something additional; it hasn’t been replacing my childhood in any way.”

Read the complete report in the Miami Herald.