U of U's Youngest Student is now 15

U of U's Youngest Student is now 15

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- When the parents of Elizabeth Buckmiller sent her off to the University of Utah at the age of 12, then wondered if they were doing the right thing.

Many teachers and counselors were concerned about potential damage to her social development.

"If we had a dollar for every time a skeptic spoke, we could have paid for her college," said her mother, Kelly Buckmiller. "Highly gifted kids need to find ways to channel their energy individually -- it's a case-by-case issue."

And in this case it has worked out fine. Elizabeth -- who goes by Buzz -- is 15, a junior and is described as a model student.

When she started, she was the youngest person ever admitted to the university.

Kelly Buckmiller said her daughter was speaking in clear, concise sentences before 18 months old and was reading somewhere around the age of 3, and it seemed like everything she learned she could instantly commit to memory.

"She was like a sponge," her mother said. "In a stimulated environment she ate it up like candy -- you could never give her enough."

But as she neared her teens, she was becoming frustrated and needed something different. So after more than a year of looking at options, Buzz got her wish and was allowed to go to college.

Kari Ellingson, vice president for student development, said the university stepped outside policy in letting her in, but Buzz seemed ready, socially as well as academically.

"Now she is beyond an oddity," Ellingson said. "She takes honors classes, keeps a high GPA and takes advantage of every opportunity set before her. She is a model student."

Recently Buzz was one of 12 students in the nation to receive the Gen. John A. Wickham Scholarship through the ROTC program, which afforded her the money to move onto campus.

She goes to parties and dances. She doesn't think like she's missed out on much by skipping junior high and high school, and feels she fits in more as a college student.

"I don't go around saying, 'Hi, I am Elizabeth Buckmiller, I go by Buzz and I am only 15.' Age is just a number," she said. "Everyone has their chronological age and their mental age -- oftentimes those coincide, sometimes they don't."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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