Law Student Talks Stacking Multiple Degrees by 17

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“I have a growth mindset. My mom taught me to grow through things, not go through things.” – David Gaines

Born in 2003, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, David Gaines, an endlessly curious child, knew from a very early age that he was built for greatness. In third grade, he tackled fifth grade assignments with ease. Gaines noted during a conversation with the Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni (CASA) at Georgia State University, “I would finish my work by 12 o’clock.” Unchallenged and unable to move up a grade, his mother, who raised him by herself, met with their district’s Superintendent who recommended homeschooling.

Gaines and his mother tested the waters. To their surprise, Gaines fell in love with the structured pace, the option to take a break if needed, and the ability to explore a range of topics that filled his learning gaps. Ecstatic about working closely with his mother, whom he considers to be his “biggest inspiration,” Gaines knew his days within the public school system were over. To most, homeschooling is a complex process which requires a great deal of time, commitment, and flexibility. Before COVID-19, most parents never thought to explore the option. However, Gaines and his mother were ahead of the curve. Homeschooling created a pathway to Georgia State University in the heart of Atlanta.

Gaines heard about the diverse and unique learning environment of Perimeter College, which is a part of Georgia State University’s portfolio. Above his years intellectually, Gaines entered the dynamic campus at 14. Determined to beat the odds, Gaines graduated with both an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences by 17. Currently a first-year dual-degree student pursuing a Juris Doctor and Master’s degree in Public Health, Gaines, now 18, also plans to incorporate medicine, with a focus on neurosurgery and neurology, into his career path. Inspired by his pediatrician, Dr. Roytesa Savage, Gaines recalls watching her console a crying baby and parent when he was just five years old.

Gaines stresses that his academic and professional journey hasn’t been an easy one. There are roadblocks, especially around volunteer opportunities and the elephant in the room – ageism. According to Gaines, “people believe that because of my age, I am not fit for certain jobs or meant to have certain roles.” To Gaines, those views are unfounded. His ability to persevere during his elementary years prepared him for where he is today. During his tenure at Georgia State University Gaines has accomplished much. With law school and medical school in his crosshairs, Gaines is clear that his growth mindset will allow him to do so much more.

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