ASU welcomes 12-year-old student

Javier Urcuyo walks to his first college class four days a week with an escort in tow to tackle calculus before he has reached his teens.

The 12-year-old attends the Herberger Young Scholars Academy on the West campus. He will continue to attend the academy for highly gifted students until he can become a full-time student at ASU.

He thinks this will happen in a year.

“In theory, I should be finished with high school in a year,” Javier said. “Although I will still attend the academy, I think I could graduate in four years.”

Javier will get a Grand Canyon High School Diploma next year. The diploma is an alternative to Arizona’s customary high school diploma. It aims to help students with sufficient academic performance to graduate early.

His mother, Alicia Acevedo-Urcuyo, said the admission process for ASU took more than a year.

“He took the SAT’s and scored over 700 in math,” Acevedo-Urcuyo said. “A committee was put together to decide. They were hesitant because of his age.”

Herberger Academy Executive Director Kimberly Lansdowne helped Javier with the admission process.

“Javier came to the academy with knowledge of math that went beyond high school level,” she said. “He is now ready to go to college math classes.”

The academy aims to prepare students for the rigor of college-level curriculum, Lansdowne said.

“Our kids have so different academic needs than those of their chronological peers,” she said. “Javier is the first to go through the process, but there will be more students admitted to ASU.”

Lansdowne said she is confident Javier will do well at the University.

“During the admission process, I wrote a letter of recommendation,” Lansdowne said. “I was very impressed with Javier. He has strong leadership skills and he is very mature.”

Javier said he has always been interested in mathematics.

“I was doing (Advanced Placement) statistics when I was 10 years old,” he said. “I haven’t had a hard time with calculus at ASU.”

Both his parents have mathematics degrees. Carlos Urcuyo, his father, said Javier has always had an interest in learning new things.

“The first day of preschool, all the kids were taking naps while he was reading,” Urcuyo said. “And after a few weeks in kindergarten, the school decided to place him in first grade.”

By the time Javier was in third grade, he was ready to go to middle school, Urcuyo said.

“But I was a little hesitant,” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable because he was so little and all the kids were so much older.”

Instead, Javier’s parents looked for schools that would be a better fit for him.

“We found out that Madison Park Middle School has a program for highly gifted students,” Acevedo-Urcuyo said. “So we enrolled him there, after he passed the tests and was IQ tested.”

A year later, he transferred to BASIS Scottsdale, a school that aims to prepare students for success at top colleges.

Javier Urcuyo is seen at the Noble Science and Engineering Library on the Tempe campus Monday. Urcuyo, who is only 12 years old, is one of the youngest students to take college-level courses at ASU.  (Photo by Aaron Lavinsky)

There, Javier completed pre-calculus and statistics courses with high school students.

“It was a little hard for him because oftentimes he couldn’t relate,” Urcuyo said. “But he pulled it off.”

Javier joined the Herberger Academy in seventh grade. Now, a year later, a teacher walks him to his class at ASU.

“I feel very comfortable with him being there,” Urcuyo said. “The school still watches over him while he’s on campus.”

Acevedo-Urcuyo said she feels confident he will do well at ASU, even though he is so young.

“Javier has always been very mature for his age,” she said. “He takes a lot of leadership roles at school.”

Javier won first place in the state science fair last year.

“I loved it, because I don’t like only math, I’m also very interested in biology and physics,” Javier said.

Javier would like to pursue a career in applied mathematics, but said one of his passions is poetry.

“When his sister Maricela was born, he wrote a beautiful poem about it,” Acevedo-Urcuyo said. “When he does something, he does it really well. We are so proud.”

Javier said he didn’t believe his childhood had been any different from those of other kids.

“I still got to live my life like a regular kid. I don’t feel any different,” Javier said. “My classmates and friends are my age; we even have a basketball team.”

Javier said he is not sure about his future plans, but he is certain he wants to continue his education.

“I would like to have a Ph.D. in applied math and have poetry as a hobby,” Javier said. “Or maybe become a doctor, I don’t know for sure yet.”

 

Reach the reporter at dpbaltaz@asu.edu