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15-year-old earns college degree as a high school junior

Belen Castellanos Fredrick earned an associate's degree in Spanish, beginning when she was just 12 years old.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A 15-year-old walked the stage at the Del Mar College fall 2022 commencement ceremony this afternoon, Friday 16.

Belen Castellanos Fredrick earned her diploma while still in high school. She spoke with 3NEWS and explained her accomplishment and what she plans to do next.

The junior at Flour Bluff High School received her associate's degree in Spanish. She started her journey when she was 12 years old and plans to have another associate's degree by the time she graduates high school.

Fredrick said the key to making it happen is time management. She hopes to inspire others like herself to do the same. "I feel that I've been working really hard for a long time, and it just feels great to finally come to the end of that journey that I feel like I've been working on for a while." Fredrick explained.

That journey is only partially complete as she is just three courses away from an associate's degree in nursing education. 

Fredrick wants her teachers to know she didn't get to this point on her own. She told 3NEWS, "The one thing I want to do is let them know that I respect them, and I want to accomplish great things and when they give me word of encouragement, it just helps motivate me further to like, I want to make them proud."

Fredrick said, she began at Del Mar College in the TexPREP Prefreshman Engineering Program. James Schollenberger helps run the program, which introduces teens to STEM topics to prepare them for the career field. 

Shollenberger spoke with 3NEWS and said, "I think back to when I was, you know, 12-16 and the things these students are not just dreaming of doing but taking an active role I am making happen. It's just phenomenal." 

As a young Latina woman, she said she knows there are not many in the STEM field like her. Regardless, she hopes getting ahead now and will help pave the way for others. 

She added, "I realize I'm going to have to sometimes, bulldoze the paths myself and there might not be somebody in front of me to do it, but I can. I can start the line of the chain of the people to come through."

Fredrick wants to keep her talents here at home. She plans to attend Texas A&M Corpus Christi after graduating from high school to pursue a degree in computer science.

By the time she starts her bachelor's degree, her family said she'll be starting as a junior, at just 17 years old.

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