ATLANTA - Like any new student, Caleb Anderson has some classes he looks forward to and others he is not as excited about taking.
"Obviously, calculus is painful," said Anderson.
But as a 13-year-old beginning his first semester at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Caleb is excited for what is ahead, even if his father, Kobi Anderson has to drive him to campus.
"I'm just going to be his chaperone making sure that he's safe and okay," said Mr. Anderson.
"Slash chauffeur," Caleb quipped.
"Or his chauffeur as he likes to call me," Anderson smiled.
The Marietta teenager started out his career at Georgia Tech as a sophomore, after spending the last two years completing his prerequisites in a dual-enrollment program at Chattahoochee Technical College. He plans to major in aerospace engineering.
"There are really two things that I want to go into," said Caleb. "First, rocketry, you know space exploration, things like that. I think that's a very interesting prospect and I'd really, really like to go into that and you know, I also want to do commercial aircraft."
Caleb has always been ahead of his peers. He qualified for MENSA at the age of three.
Despite her son's intelligence, Caleb's mother, Claire Anderson, said she shares the same concerns as most parents of college students.
"The feeling have you done enough? I think that's a mom thing that we struggle with," said Mrs. Anderson. "Have I prepared him enough? Does he have everything that he needs? Have I taught him enough to be polite?"
Claire Anderson said she also hopes her son knows it is okay to fail or even to change course.
"It's okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are proof that you are trying and you know because he might come in and get a bad grade, but for him to know, 'Okay, let's pick myself back up and keep going,'" Mrs. Anderson explained. "Have I built a safe environment if he says, 'Okay, this is not what I want to do?'"
For now, though, Caleb remains laser-focused on his goals and does not have plans to let anything slow him down.
"So in terms of college life, unless it's something that really benefits me like a career experience or whatever, I think I'm going to stay away from that," said Caleb.
The Andersons said they want Caleb's story to encourage other children to expand their horizons when it comes to the types of careers they want.
"We're hoping that maybe when someone sees another child, a 12-year-old, 13-year-old child, they might see this could be a future aerospace engineer, somebody that can make a difference. So, trying to change the vision when they see a young, black man. I think that's why it's important for us and also to inspire other young boys that there is more to life than YouTuber or TikTok or basketball, whatever it is," said Mrs. Anderson.
That is especially important to Caleb's father, who said he was teased in school for being bright.
"Kids used to call me 'the professor' and you know, they'd kind of make fun of me and everything like that," said Mr. Anderson. "I remember there was one kid, you know, we called him 'Tank' and he was like a really big guy and he would see me kind of just fritter away some of my opportunities. And I remember him sitting there and telling me, 'Why would you do this? You have an opportunity. You have a great mind--excel and do something for the rest of us, right?' And it's kind of like the same thing for Caleb, he was given a great gift and he should use it."
Caleb said he hopes to earn his bachelor's degree and then possibly go to MIT to work on a Ph.D.
"Hopefully I am here until I'm 18. They did say it was a five-year program, so maybe 19," Caleb explained.
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