Rolling Out

Black and brilliant: Dorothy Jean Tillman secures a master’s degree at 14

Black and brilliant: Dorothy Jean Tillman secures a master's degree at 14
Dorothy Jean Tillman (Photo provided)

While most teenagers are exploring TikTok or playing video games, 14-year-old Chicagoan Dorothy Jean Tillman has already atteained three college degrees. Tillman proved her child prodigy stature when she began talking at 8 months old and doing math bv 4 years old. She attended high school at 9 years old and since then has worked diligently to secure a master’s degree in sustainable science and environmental planning. We spoke with Tillman about her accomplishments.

What message do you want to share with other young people about their possibilities?

I think that my path isn’t for everyone. I think that the way I went about it from a young age and learning is something that we really should start integrating into schools. A lot of students over this quarantine have realized that maybe working online has been easier for them because they haven’t had the stress of being in the classroom. I know, one thing that I would want every kid to know, is that what I did is an option and that they can do it too. It doesn’t take a genius or someone who has been learning forever. I’m not perfect. I’m not the smartest person in the world. It just takes dedication.

How have you matriculated from high school to a master’s degree?

I started doing high school courses when I was around 9 years old. As soon as I finished those, mom was like “You want to go into getting an associate’s degree?” and I was like, “Why not?” So I was finishing up high school courses and starting with my associates, and I got that [degree] when I was about to turn 11. Moving on from there, since a lot of the associate course hours count for your bachelor’s, I had a good head start when I started my bachelor’s. By the time I was 12, I had my bachelor’s in humanities. Now I’m getting [confirmed] for my masters in August. The graduation was in May, but with quarantine, [now] August.

At 14 years old with a master’s degree in environmental science what’s next for you?

I’ve been working on STEM labs for kids because I really want to go into the STEM-related field and work with kids. I love helping kids have bright futures. I feel like I’m here to make people happy and to help people find their purpose. I know I want to go into that field, but I’m definitely sticking on the path of my engineering degree. I might go back to school, but my plan is to be an entrepreneur and [use] my engineering degree.

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