In May, Alena was offered a spot at the University of Alabama’s Heersink School of Medicine for 2024, as part of its Early Assurance Program — which offers early admission to applicants who meet specific requirements. Alena is more than 10 years younger than the average incoming medical student.
“What is age?” said Alena, who lives just outside Fort Worth and is completing most of her courses online. “You’re not too young to do anything. I feel like I have proven to myself that I can do anything that I put my heart and mind to.”
When Alena was 3 years old, her mother started noticing that she was far from a typical toddler.
“Alena was gifted,” said her mother, Daphne McQuarter. “It was just how she did things and how advanced she was. She was reading chapter books.”
One roommate is 85, the other is 27. Such arrangements are growing.
Learning new skills, Alena said, came easily to her, and once she started school, she was sometimes taunted for her scholastic talents.
“There was a little boy that bullied me, and he would tease me and call me ‘smarty pants,’” Alena recalled, adding that her mother decided to home-school her for several years after the bullying started.
In fifth grade, she switched back to traditional schooling, though she continued to take advanced high school-level courses at home, using a curriculum her mother created. During the pandemic, Alena decided to expand her course load even more.
For Alena, algebra was easy. Geometry was intuitive. Biology was a breeze.
“I was bored,” said Alena, who recently started using her middle name, Analeigh, as her surname. “The high school work was so easy for me that I ended up graduating from high school at 12 years old.”
Taking extra classes, Alena said, was more of a pleasure than a pain. She flew through Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and