2019 is a big year for Haley Taylor Schlitz. In May, she will earn her associate degree as well as her bachelor degree. This fall, she goes on to law school. It is also the year Taylor Schlitz gets her driver’s license. She is only 16 years old.
Taylor Schlitz’s education experience began in public school. Recognizing her gifts, her parents decided to homeschool her beginning in the fifth grade. Taylor Schlitz accelerated through primary and secondary curriculum and graduated from high school at 13-years old. She and her parents decided TCC was the next step.
“Community colleges are a safe environment and cost effective. My parents stressed not getting into a large amount of debt for my undergraduate degree,” Taylor Schlitz said. “They told me and my brother what a great resource TCC is for students. It has great faculty, great programs and flexibility to combine on campus and online classes.”
To ease her transition into college, Taylor Schlitz and her parents met with Adam Baugh, academic advisor at TCC Northeast. He helped her plan her schedule and gave her tips for college success.
“I was so excited to be an in an educational environment where I could create an academic program designed for my academic needs,” said Taylor Schlitz. “It was great to be able to go to class and just be a student. No crazy high school years where everything but education matters. I loved it.”
She found acceptance by her professors and by her fellow students, who treated her as an equal even though a number of years separated them.
“Haley demonstrates a level of maturity, confidence and preparedness sometimes lacking in students twice her age,” said Edwardo Perez, associate professor of English at TCC Northeast. “She seems endowed with knowledge and skills many of us do not attain until we’ve lived a few decades, and she is highly motivated.”
Despite her academic gifts, Taylor Schlitz found challenges to overcome.
“Most of the questions, and shock I get, is about my socialization,” she said. “Some people seem unwilling to accept any idea that suggests that young people can excel outside of the traditional education pathway.”
Taylor Schlitz’s most significant struggle happened within herself. She sometimes doubted her ability to do the work and was not sure she belonged in college.
“Self-doubt can be crippling if you let it take control. And it could be easy to get caught up in all the ‘concerns’ people have for a student on the path that I am on,” she explained. “But once I realized I wasn’t held hostage by the box that people so desperately wanted to put me in, I moved on and I thrived.”
Taylor Schlitz made the Dean’s List and earned scholarships as well as membership in honor societies. She credits homeschooling for preparing her for college, noting that it broke her out of the structured environment of traditional primary and secondary education and gave her a more college-like experience. She also says she succeeded with the support of Baugh, who continued to work with her throughout her years at TCC.
“Having a counselor who believes in you and actually helps you find a way to reach your dreams is so important,” she said. “He never once told me what I couldn’t do. He didn’t project any thoughts he might have had about me being 13. He listened. He answered the questions that my parents and I had. He was always available. He made college a better experience.”
Baugh says Taylor Schlitz did all the hard work herself and has grown tremendously as a college student.
“She was very quiet the first time I met her. Mom and Dad did most of the talking that first advisement session, but as time progressed, Haley really became much more independent and outgoing, from my perspective,” said Baugh. “I just saw her get more confident from semester to semester, and she really became her own advocate.”
In 2017, Taylor Schlitz was ready to take the next step in her education by going on to a university. She applied to transfer, and 16 schools accepted her. She chose Texas Woman’s University. She flourished, making the Dean’s List, and is set to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. Taylor Schlitz also continued taking classes at TCC and will graduate, also in May, with her Associate of Arts.
“I really believe that community colleges are key to providing students like me, non-traditional, with the opportunity for us to reach our full potential,” she said.
For Taylor Schlitz, her full potential includes co-publishing a book about the benefits of homeschooling (The Homeschool Alternative). She also plans to earn her law degree. Southern Methodist University, Howard University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Southern University and Texas Southern University all have accepted her into their law programs; she is currently deciding where to enroll. She plans a career in intellectual property (IP) or education law. No matter what type of law she pursues, she says she wants to be engaged in legal advocacy efforts to ensure that public school gifted and talented programs are open to all students.
“The data show that girls and students of color are severely underrepresented in our gifted and talented programs,” Taylor Schlitz noted. “To make things worse, black students are over-represented in school discipline statistics. I want to help families advocate for inclusion. If we don’t get this issue addressed in our K-12 schools, we will miss an entire generation of problem solvers.”
In all her endeavors, Taylor Schlitz will look at TCC as a vital step in her path.
“I think my success is built on TCC, because it was a great way for a 13-year-old to get into the college environment and to build confidence,” she said.
Her experiences at TCC also started a family trend. Ian, Taylor Schlitz’s 13-year-old brother, now is enrolled at TCC. For their parents, the College has provided the best path forward for their children.
“I think Haley’s education journey demonstrates how important it is to have great community colleges accessible to everyone in our communities,” said William Schlitz. “TCC was crucial to allowing Haley, and now Ian, a path to early college and the ability for them to reach for their dreams at an earlier age. TCC is a great resource that demonstrates what our community colleges can do in America.”
To contact an advisor like Taylor Schlitz did, visit the Academic Advising webpage.
This story is the latest in the “What’s stopping you?” series, celebrating members of the TCC community who don’t let challenges get in their way.