At 15, he's meeting the challenge

While it hasn't always been easy, Andrew Stoeve has set his collegiate career in motion.

By MICHELE MILLER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 16, 2008

HUDSON - Like a lot of kids his age, Andrew Stoeve isn't quite sure what he wants to be when he grows up.

"I've thought about going into the Air Force," he says with a shrug. "Or an internship with the FBI."

But this story is not so much about where Andrew, 15, is going - rather where he has been and what he has already accomplished.

As far as travel, Andrew has been on his share of family vacations and a couple of missionary trips to France and El Salvador.

Most recently he enjoyed snowmobiling with his family in Yellowstone National Park. That trip was a gift from his parents, Tony and Norma Stoeve, who wanted to reward their son for graduating with honors from Pasco-Hernando Community College with a dual associate's degree in networking technology and IT security.

He has since celebrated another birthday, but when he donned that cap and gown in December, Andrew was just 14.

"I wanted to graduate in 2007," said Andrew. "I wanted to graduate at 14 and I liked the number 7."

Now Andrew is working toward his bachelor's degree in communication at St. Petersburg College and contemplating another missionary trip in the fall.

For most of his life, Andrew has been homeschooled. Sure, there was that stint in preschool. But Andrew was already reading back then, Mrs. Stoeve said.The Pasco schools didn't offer a gifted program until third grade, so Mrs. Stoeve, who, like her husband was a nurse at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, decided to cut back on her hours so she could homeschool her son.

That worked pretty well for a while. But when Andrew turned 12, he told his mom that he hadbeen coasting academically and that it was time to get on with his life.

"I think he was bored with homeschooling and wanted the interaction with teachers and other students," said his mom, who began seeking alternatives that would meet his academic needs.

They sent an application to a local private school but were told the school couldn't meet his needs because he was so advanced. Dual enrollment classes at PHCC seemed to be the best fit.

"I started off in a computer class," said Andrew. "It was kind of weird at first, but I liked being on campus."

Even when the older students took to calling him "Baby Genius" and "Jimmy Neutron."

Still, they often looked after him. His adult lab partner made sure he ate during long school days and some of the other students would wait with him until his mom came to pick him up after class. Each semester, Andrew added more classes - English composition, public speaking - till he racked up enough credits to graduate.

It wasn't always easy, though.

While Andrew excelled academically, the transition from homeschooling to formal education was at times a bit bumpy. He wasn't used to deadlines, said his mom. Like many teens his age, he had to work on organization, time management and study skills.

Then there was the stigma that went along with attending college at such a young age. People expected more of him than other kids his age and that often frustrated him.

"One of the things that made him successful was the understanding he had of his weaknesses and his willingness to seek help," said Karen Lederer, associate professor of Information Technology.

But, she added, "He has a lot on the ball and I wouldn't be surprised if some day he's my boss or a famous entrepreneur," Lederer said. "He certainly has a lot of opportunities ahead of him."