Contact: Wendel Sloan at 575.562.2253
Many graduates crossing the stage this weekend will be greeted with cheers, flowers and graffiti on their cars as they make their way to graduation celebrations. One graduate will have just celebrated her Sweet Sixteen.
Jessica McGraw, a biology major from Hobbs, will have earned her bachelor's degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales at the age of 16 - easily the youngest graduate at ENMU. Her brother, John, will graduate in December at age 19 with a double major in biology and finance. When people discover their ages, "Most people don't know what to say," says John.
The McGraws were home-schooled in the seventh and eighth grade before attending dual-credit classes at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs. This made it possible to earn credits for high school and college simultaneously. After earning their associates in biology at NMJC, they transferred to ENMU to further their education while still living in Hobbs.
"The location of Eastern and the affordability made sense to transfer here," says John. "The class size and professor and student interaction was another plus to coming here." Their father, John McGraw Sr., drives his children from Hobbs to ENMU every day.
Since both siblings' interests were in biology and chemistry, they were able to register for many of the same classes. "We've always had an overload in our semesters," says Jessica. "The heaviest semester we had was either 22 or 24 hours."
The encouragement and support from their parents has helped Jessica and John accelerate earning their degrees. "Our parents have supported our education in more ways than I can count. They've helped us in every way they possibly could," says John. "They've paid for our education, driven us to classes, encouraged us, motivated us, given us tips on how to study and learn, and so much more. There is so much stuff they have done to support our education."
The siblings stress that their academic achievements are not out of anyone's reach. "We aren't the weird kids in the front of the class," says John. Although they may be younger, both affirm that they have no trouble making connections with fellow classmates.
Their love of learning and their fields have been an additional motivator in their unique achievements. "It's really fascinating about how all these complex systems are formed and interact. It kind of blows your mind when you think about biological subjects as a whole, which drives my interest in learning about what's going on at the most basic levels," says John.
Along with their intense academic schedule, the McGraw children have been able to maketime for another priority: karate. Both are assistant instructors at a karate studio in Hobbs. They have worked on their black belts for eight years and are halfway to earning them.
Completing her college education before she is legally considered an adult, Jessica doesn't feel that she has placed getting a degree above the college experience. She explains that everyone has a different experience in high school and college and hers is just as unique.
After graduation, both Jessica and John plan to enroll in master's programs; Jessica will opt for biology and John will seek out a master's in business administration.
The Hobbs natives feel it is important to note that they are no different from any other person and their achievements can be obtained by anyone with enough motivation and support.
"The truth is that anybody can do what we're doing. We are just like everyone else when it comes to our intelligence. All it takes is hard work and the willingness to commit the time it takes to get it done," explains John. "It's definitely not easy, but for anybody who really wants to do it badly enough, it can definitely be done."