DOVER — At the tender age of 12, Angelica Malone felt self-conscious about how young of a high schooler she was.
Trying to blend in at Early College High School at Delaware State University (DSU) she ditched any overly colorful or “childish” clothing and attempted to appear as socially mature as possible.
Even when it came to her age she tried to hide it.
“I really didn’t want to the other kids to know how old I was, because most of them were 14, 15 and 16,” she said.
“One time I lost a tooth right in the middle of class because I was still only 12. I was able to hide it real quick. If they saw that, they were going to think I had some sort of serious problem or it’d give away my age.
“Luckily it was in the back, too, so you couldn’t see it unless I smiled really big.”
Despite her best efforts, her peers would eventually come to know that she had advanced two grade-levels ahead of her age, mostly because she hasn’t slowed down at all.
The now 16-year-old graduated with honors last month. In the fall she’ll be entering Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, with 44 credits already earned — making her a college sophomore the moment she walks through the door.
If the advanced status she’ll have in college wasn’t enough, she has been offered more than $1.22 million dollars in academic scholarships upon her high school graduation. Fifteen colleges and universities offered her scholarships, four of them “full rides,” meaning the institution would pay her full tuition, and room and board during her pursuit of a degree.
Only 0.2 percent of students got $25,000 or more in scholarships per year, based on the 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). To not only be a part of this small group, but to receive four full rides astonished her, Angelica said.
“I didn’t think I’d get any full ride scholarships at first,” she said. “Of all the applicants, I was just so surprised they picked me.”
According to DSU she also carries the distinction of being the youngest student in their Early College High School program.
She has decided to major in psychobiology at Albright College via the Warren L. Davis Scholarship, worth $135,740 over the course of four years.
She was selected from more than 10,000 initial applicants for the scholarship.
Always a step ahead
For Angelica, her journey has been full of surprises. But her mom, Sabrina Malone, noticed her gifts early on.
“We could kind of tell,” said Ms. Malone. “It helped that she has older siblings. She could always keep up with them academically and intellectually.”
Angelica has five siblings.
Enrolled in Christian Tabernacle Academy in Lincoln, the second grade was the first that Angelica leapt over.
“They moved me into third grade when I was seven,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t really think it meant anything and I didn’t know what effect it would have.
“All I knew is that I was always several chapters ahead of the other students when we were reading and I was getting bored. I was happy to be in a class where they weren’t teaching me stuff I already knew.”
Later on the academy closed down and for a brief period of time, Ms. Malone herself took over teaching.
“The kids were home schooled after Christian Tabernacle closed, so I was their teacher,” she said. “I could see that she had a great capacity for reading and writing and memorization.
“We were going at her pace when we’d suddenly noticed that she’d gone through all the course material for seventh grade by Christmas time. So after the New Year, we just started on eighth grade, which she finished by June. Then we just shrugged and said, what should we do? I guess she should just go to high school.”
With an eye on college they chose DSU’s college prep program.
Not the only exceptional student in the family, Ms. Malone says of her four students currently in college their combined scholarships are worth $160,000 per year.
“No one is waiting on a check from the Malones for education and none of them are taking student loans,” she said.
Ms. Malone, and her husband Daniel Malone Sr., believe part of their success is owed to their insistence on teaching their children the value of money and academic performance.
“With six kids, we realized early on that paying for college was going to be really hard,” said Ms. Malone. “With the four kids we have in college right now, we’d have had to be making salaries of $220,000 to pay for it and keep the roof over our head and that just wasn’t possible. So we raised them to be serious about academics. Angelica took the SATs about seven times. Her siblings took them repeatedly, too.”
Not only did the message get through, it was embraced. Angelica took the time to strategically target colleges when she sent applications out last fall.
“There are people with better scores than me and better GPAs (grade point averages), but I think I just applied to the right schools,” Angelica said. “A lot of people want to go to Harvard, but they’re not going to give you a full ride because it’s so competitive — that’s the way with a lot of peoples’ dream schools.
“For me, I applied to a lot of schools where I knew I would be in their top percentage. I would look up the information on college’s average GPAs and SAT scores and apply at the ones where I knew I’d be one of their top students. You kind of limit yourself if you only apply to your ‘reach’ schools and just hope you get accepted.”
Fascinated by psychiatric science, Angelica hopes to graduate and go to medical school, ultimately pursuing a career in psychiatry.
Always planning for the future, Angelica’s dogged devotion to practicality has encouraged her to set an even more ambitious goal for future scholarships:
“I know it seems like an impossible dream, but where I most want to go to medical school is where I can get it for free,” she said.
“I don’t know exactly how I’ll do it yet. I’ve never heard of anyone pulling it off because medical school is so competitive as it is just to get in. But, imagine that — getting a medical degree with no debt. I have read and heard about so many people that graduate older from medical school and just have to spend so many years of their lives paying down huge debts.”
Raising gifted children comes with its own set of challenges, Ms. Malone says. But it has been important to remind herself that they’re still young.
“We try to keep in mind that she may be really smart, well-spoken and driven, but she still needs the things that are appropriate for a child,” she said.
“Even if they want to take on everything, it’s wise to put the breaks on them a little. She’s headed off to college this fall, but she’s still going to spend this summer doing things like going to the mall with her friends or the beach or to the theater.”
As an unusually young college sophomore, Angelica may once again have to struggle to fit in. But this time, it’ll be a lack of a driver’s license that will give her away to her peers rather than losing a tooth.
“I’ll only have my learner’s permit still when I’m in college, so I guess I’ll have to try to make friends with someone who has a car,” she joked.
Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or firstname.lastname@example.org