WEEKI WACHEE — Joann Gold started her third year of college three days ago.
She already has an associate general liberal arts degree to go with her diploma from Springstead High School, and now she is attending classes at the University of South Florida.
Not bad for having just turned 16 years old.
Joann finished all of her high school coursework and classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College in two years, counting summers. She completed work at PHCC on Dec. 10, and turned 16 four days later.
"My entire high school career I attended PHCC along with the entire high school full schedule," Joann said. She began taking the dual-enrollment classes during the summer after eighth grade.
"I actually stepped foot in a college before I stepped foot in high school," she said.
A typical day for Joann was cheerleading practice at 5 a.m., a full day of classes at Springstead, followed by her college classes in the evenings.
Joann didn't realize she had enough high school credits to graduate until she went to guidance for a credit check and learned that she was almost there.
"It was really soon," she said. "I wasn't expecting it." But, she ran with it.
By the time she graduated it was too late to get into a Florida state university for the fall, so she applied to an out-of-state school. This was one instance when her age was an obstacle. She was denied because she was too young to live on campus.
She continued to attend PHCC and applied to Florida universities for the winter term. She was accepted by the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Florida.
Joann pointed out that since she was never a high school senior, she missed out on scholarship opportunities. USF gave her a transfer scholarship, so she chose it. She also anticipates getting a Florida Bright Futures scholarship.
Joann is studying psychology and business management and expects to be finished at USF by 2012. "I'll be 17 when I graduate," she said.
After that, there will be more studying. "I plan on doing law school," she said, "Probably UF law, but I heard there are many good Florida law schools, like Stetson." (Stetson University College of Law is in Gulfport.)
Joann wasn't bothered by being such a young PHCC student.
"I actually enjoyed it," she said. She got a kick out of shocking people when they learned her age, but mostly she enjoyed the variety of fellow students. Some were just out of high school; others were older people returning to school to better their lives.
Joann does have time for fun. She plays piano, sings, dances and does gymnastics. "I usually save my weekends for the fun stuff," she said, which includes karaoke and movies.
During her high school-community college years, Joann did some volunteering, too, including time at the YMCA. She also spent time volunteering in former U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite's office, although she qualified that time as more of a learning experience.
Joann is the daughter of Andrea Ingoglia.