Southwest Tennessee Community College

For Immediate Release

Date August 18, 2008

For More Information: Brenda J. Rayner (901) 333-4247


Highly Gifted 14-Year-Old Enrolls in Fall Classes at Southwest

"First, I am 14 and this is college," was highly gifted young teen Graham Charles Elwood's response to the question ... 'How is starting school this year different for you than it was last year?' Graham Elwood will be the first 14-year-old to attend Southwest Tennessee Community College. Co-valedictorian of his Gateway Christian School senior class of 116, Elwood fast-paced to test out of five grades in six months to graduate at 13-years-old this past May. Gateway offers home extension classes. "When they saw his ACT scores and his IQ tests, they said let him go at his own pace," said Shelby Elwood-Raney, Graham's mother.

Though Elwood, who has an IQ of 170 and an ACT score of 27, was awarded a Southwest President's Scholarship, there will be no red carpet rolled out to welcome him to campus this fall. He, his parents and Southwest unanimously agreed to make his college experience as normal as possible. "My hope would be that Graham would have a normal experience as any other normal student would have," stated Southwest President Nathan Essex.

Southwest's new student orientation was recently held and Elwood blended in with all the other first-time students in his black t-shirt with sunglasses clipped to the front. If that's any indication, he'll get his wish to be just another student at Southwest. "I hope that my classmates will accept me. I am just one of them as far I as I'm concerned. I hope to just be another student," he said.

The officials at Southwest worked with Elwood's parents in advance of his enrollment to make sure that he and Southwest were a good match. "As far as us changing our program, we really haven't done that because that would not be giving him a true college experience; and that's what he wanted," said Kathryn Johnson, executive director of enrollment services.

His classes will be lined up backed-to-back on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – psychology, speech, Spanish, military science, and the honors program. "I am looking to [test out of] math and English," he said. When it comes to extracurricular, he has several interests. So far, he has talked to Coach Reynolds about trying out for baseball.

Elwood plans to major in law. His mother proudly said he has known since third grade that he wanted to study law. "He sat on the bed and told me what schools he wanted to attend and what he wanted to take," she glowed. If all goes well, he will graduate from Southwest in 2010 and transfer credits to Rhodes College or the University of Memphis to complete his undergraduate degree.

Thereafter, he plans to join the military. Elwood comes from a long line of military men and plans to keep the family tradition. "It's fascinated me. My entire family has pretty much been military at one point or another and I really feel like I, at least, have a six or seven-year obligation to them." He hoped to be going to West Point for his bachelor's degree, but his age precluded him from attending. "So we've had to tweak the career," said his mother.

Elwood is a young man with superior intelligence and huge career goals. "I want to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court," he announced. Graham Elwood is off to an incredible start.

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CUTLINE: President Nathan Essex awards Graham Elwood the President's Scholarship.

CUTLINE: Dough Branch (seated left) explains the honors program to Graham (black t-shirt, center) and other first-time students.