Keeping up the Pace
by Sherry Wodraska Neaves
Courtney Pace skipped high school, enrolling at UTA as a 15-year-old freshman. Early college entrance is a tradition in the Pace family. Courtneys mother, Janyce Johnson Pace, started classes here at age 16, and her dad was in college at age 17.
Courtneys fast track to college began after qualifying to take the SAT in seventh grade. She enrolled in tutoring courses at the Gateway Institute in DeSoto and soon began attending classes there full time.
I started college-level work
when I was 12. Essentially, elementary school was all I needed. High school
is all about the social life, but for me, school
We actually took college classes there in the seventh grade, she said. Then we took the CLEP tests and got college credit. I started college-level work when I was 12. Essentially, elementary school was all I needed. High school is all about the social life, but for me, school is for learning.
Everyone thought I was loopy when I decided to do this, but its opened up a lot of doors for me. I would have been an 11th-grader right now, but I just dont see myself there.
At 14 Courtney started attending UTA engineering camps. I felt like this was where I belonged, she said. I had intended to do architecture at A&M, but the engineering camp really swayed my decision.
She enrolled full time in fall 1999, pursuing a degree
in computer science engineering. She was 15 years old and had to petition
for a hardship drivers license so that she could get to and from
College savvy at age 15
During her freshman year Courtney lived at home, but
as a sophomore she moved into Arlington Hall to serve as one of six residential
mentors sponsored by the Honors College. The mentors tutor other residents
and receive room and board as payment.
Plus, she has so many guardian angels on campus, so many adults she can go to who are watching out for her. Dawn Remmers-Roeber, a student development specialist in the Honors College, is one of those guardian angels. She works with Courtney and the other residence hall mentors.
They were selected based on their interest in the program, grade-point average and the subjects they were able to tutor, she explained. Courtney has very strong academic preparation for a program of this type. Shes such an asset. Shes so excited about it that she makes other students and faculty excited, too. Her techniques as a tutor are exemplary.
Courtney said the Honors College faculty and staff have
taken her under their wing. And the CSE faculty are just great.
Baptist Student Ministries has also become a home for her at UTA.
Courtney, now 16, plans to finish her bachelors degree in May 2004 and immediately begin work on her masters at UTA. Where she goes for her Ph.D. depends on which college makes the best offer.
I definitely want to pursue artificial intelligence
research, she said. Id like to work in industry for
a while, and eventually I want to teach at a university. I think being
a professor is the greatest pulpit anyone could have. You have 16 weeks
every semester to convince those students that they can do anything.
As far as skating goes, I saw Kristi Yamaguchi in the 1992 Olympics and fell in love with the sport, she said. After entering her first competition in 1992, Courtney skated in the Freestyle 4 class at the 1994 world championships and the Freestyle 6 class in the 1997 competition. But with school and other commitments, her skating has suffered.
At one time I had planned to go to the Olympics,
but I dont see that now, she said. I dont want
it as much. But coaching is still a possibility. And maybe Disney.
Like mother, like daughter
Junior high was probably the most difficult time. I was 10, 11 and 12 when everyone else was 12, 13 and 14. But usually it was just in social things that my age was an issue. I was involved in lots of extracurricular activities, and there the age thing didnt matter.
After graduating from Duncanville High School, Janyce was admitted to UTA. She started her bachelors degree in music education at 16 and completed it in just over three years. To earn money for school, she taught flute and piano at the local Brook Mays music store, where she met 17-year-old Roger Pace, who was also working his way through college, teaching flute, clarinet and saxophone.
He completed his senior year of high school and freshman year of college at the same time, so he was also a fairly young college student, she explained.
Within a few years the couple married, and later, while Janyce was back in school working on an M.B.A., Courtney was born.
I realized early on that she was unusual, said Janyce, who works for Ernst and Young in Dallas. And I actually tried to get her into a school early, much as my mother did for me. But I couldnt find anything, public or private, that would accept her at that age. They kept citing the social issue, saying she would have difficulties. But that really wasnt ever an issue for her. She went through everythingall the developmental phasesthat all children go through, but always at an earlier age than her peers.
But then, this family is always doing things at a faster Pace.