Newton Girl Graduating High School and College at the Same Time

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NEWTON, Iowa - When Rebecca Gibson walks across the Newton High School stage Sunday, she'll be a high school graduate.

It's an odd feeling for her, considering she's been a college graduate for about three weeks now.

"So this weekend, I'm graduating from Newton High School - Class Valedictorian, with highest honors," Gibson said. "And three weeks ago, I went through my DMACC commencement ceremony, so I graduated DMACC - the Newton campus - with my associate of liberal arts degree."

A high school diploma and an associate's degree - all at the age of 16. This girl is supposed to be a sophomore, but her brain is running a bit faster than her body.

"She's always been very eager, but probably when we really noticed she was really going above and beyond was first grade," her mother, Melissa Gibson, said.

Rebecca read 1,000 books in the first grade. The pace only picked up from there.

"When I got to second grade, I was taking these math tests, and I was getting done really fast," she said. "And my second grade teacher said, 'I don't feel like I can offer her anything else right where she's at.'"

Rebecca did two year's worth of high school and one year's worth of college all in her freshman year.

"It wasn't easy, but I just kept looking at the reward, and what I was able to get out of it, and what I was going to be able to do because I was doing it," she said. "And I had a lot of family support, friend support, teachers."

It was teachers like Dr. Gregory Barord at Des Moines Central Campus that Rebecca credits for her success. Dr. Barord says he saw her potential as soon as she enrolled in the school's Marine Science Program.

"And she's not even 18 - in 10 years, hopefully I'll know where she is, and it's just crazy to think of where she might be," he said.

Next up for Rebecca: A Bachelor's Degree - and hopefully after that, a Ph.D - from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Her advice to other young minds: trust your teachers.

"They see your potential and, I mean, I didn't even realize the potential I had until these teachers were like, 'You can do this!' And I said, 'I don't think I can!' And they said, 'I promise you, that if you put your mind to it, you can,'" she said.