Those providing a hand of guidance for San Jacinto College MECA student Harrison Mast (seated) include, from left: philosophy professor Edwin Aiman, and Harrison’s parents, Lynn and Henry Mast. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing department.
Gifted 13-year-old the youngest ever to enroll in accelerated college program
Rob Vanya, August 16, 2012
HOUSTON — Most 13-year-olds do not talk about things like business computer applications, software development concepts, and computer operating systems. But Harrison Mast thinks a little differently than most young people his age.
Harrison turned 13 just three months ago, and yet took college courses this summer at San Jacinto College through the College’s Modified Early College Academy (MECA). The boy will also enroll as a high school junior this Fall at Holy Trinity Episcopal School, a private school located in northeast Houston. As a dual credit (high school-college) student, he will graduate concurrently from the two schools – earning a high school diploma from Holy Trinity, as well as an associate degree from San Jacinto College at the age of 15.
Harrison qualified to enroll as a dual credit high school junior, and a MECA college student by scoring high on a battery of rigorous placement tests. He is the youngest person to qualify as a MECA student since the program began at San Jacinto College in 2006.
Harrison’s parents knew their son was gifted intellectually at an early age. “He was always very inquisitive and learned to read at a very young age and has been a voracious reader from the start,” commented his mother Lynn Mast. Harrison recently finished reading Walter Isaacon’s “Steve Jobs,” a biography of the late innovator who masterminded Apple Computer’s phenomenal success. He is currently reading “Freakonomics,” the international bestseller that explores what makes things (and people) tick.
Harrison especially likes the Steve Jobs’ biography because the boy is fascinated with computers. In fact, Harrison and his 20-year-old cousin Zach Hamburg recently worked together and built a computer from scratch. “We bought all of the separate components and assembled a complete computer, and then installed an operating system on the machine we built,” Harrison said. “It was a fun project.”
Despite his youth, he is already thinking about a career path. “It would probably be something to do with computer software development, and perhaps operating system development,” he commented. “I think the Apple OS is really cool.”
His interest in computers led him to take a computer business applications course at San Jacinto College this summer. Maria Bright, North Campus business office technology professor, was impressed by the youth’s demeanor and class participation. “Harrison came in and paid careful attention to my instructions and requirements,” she said. “He applied himself, completed assignments, and asked questions when he was not satisfied with the solutions.” On occasion Harrison recognized glitches in a simulation program used in class and either worked it out or pointed out the glitches to Ms. Bright. “Many students will come across these glitches and either ignore them or get frustrated,” she remarked. “Harrison understood that technology is not always 100 percent infallible and that I would be open to review and adjust as necessary. That he demonstrated this maturity at his age is quite amazing. He is a serious and committed student who is definitely going places.”
Harrison also took a philosophy course (his first involvement in a philosophy class) and found he liked it because it appealed to his natural curiosity and studious nature. “Harrison was a frequent contributor to class discussions,” commented Edwin Aiman, North Campus philosophy professor. “He never seemed overwhelmed by the subject matter or lost as if the topics were over his head. It didn’t seem as if college was too big for him or that he was intimidated in any way. I hope I was able to provide some guidance and focus for his natural curiosity.”
Harrison’s parents strive to provide positive guidance for their only child. Henry and Lynn Mast grew up in a small town in Iowa and are both soft-spoken, low-key, and modest by nature. They hope to instill a sense of modesty and humility in Harrison. They know he has a high IQ and are well aware of his academic and intellectual talents, but they do not make a big deal about it. “We respectfully ask that Harrison’s IQ not be publicized,” Mrs. Mast said. “It feels directly in opposition to the foundation we are trying to instill in him. Ultimately, it’s just a number and inadequately reflects the true character of a young man.”
Mr. Mast also tries to keep his bright young son well grounded. “I tell Harrison that everyone has talents and abilities and that just because a person has exceptional intelligence does not make the person better or superior to others.”
Jennifer Mowdy, dual credit director at the North Campus, says Harrison is fortunate to have such positive parental influences. “I can tell that he has been brought up well and has a loving and caring family life,” she remarked. “Harrison seems to adapt very well to college life and does not seem to be overwhelmed at all. He is performing well academically, is very well behaved, and seems to also fit in socially. Not only is he obviously advanced academically, but he also seems to have a maturity beyond his years.”
San Jacinto College offers a wide range of dual credit options at all three campuses. All three campuses also operate early college high schools in which qualifying students take high school and college courses concurrently. MECA is a two-year accelerated program at the North Campus that begins the summer before the junior year of high school, in which qualifying students can earn college associate degrees concurrently with high school diplomas. For more information about dual credit and early college high school enrollment, visit www.sanjac.edu/dual-credit.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. The Achieving the Dream Leader College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of 30,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career preparation. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $630 million each year to the Texas workforce. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.
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