14-year-old in a college class? I think yes.

Katie Thomas

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Young eighth-grade me first explored the Chapman campus one fateful spring day . . . (Photo Provided by @chapmanu on Instagram)

A young Katie Thomas ’22 poses with legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr, who is responsible for designing pretty much every vehicle with wheels in Disneyland. (Photo Credit: Ryan Thomas)

Spring 2018: I’m months away from eighth-grade graduation. 

And 14-year-old me takes her first steps onto campus as a Chapman University student.

No, I’m no child prodigy admitted to college six years ago. I am, however, the sister to an irksome yet loving brother named Ryan.

Ryan had managed to enroll himself in the coveted “Disney and Darwin” class for his final semester, and I was all (Mickey) ears. He asked me to help with his extra-credit scavenger hunt at Disneyland where I was lucky enough to meet the professor and TA.

After testing my Disney knowledge extensively (see: Dominguez Family Palm), the professor invited me to his class to hear famed speakers from the Disney company. Much to my delight, my brother agreed to take me along and my mom let me miss school (or as the professor put it, “have a dentist appointment”). 

Those speeches are all but singed into my memory: I can still hear the wonder in Michael Broggie’s voice while detailing his private train ride with Walt. I can still see the shine of Bob Gurr’s bright red sneakers peeking through the lecture hall. And most importantly, I can still feel the passion the professor was so eager to share with me.

In harnessing his passion to connect evolutionary biology with the foundation of Disneyland, the professor has assured me that I will be able to connect my passions just the same.

At a time when seniors are so close to college yet still unsure of their path, it is comforting to know that I already have one experience under my belt and that, career-wise, anything is possible. Surely with countless unique majors and classes at my disposal, I too will be able to harness my passion and create a path that’s uniquely mine.

And who knows, maybe I’ll end up right back in the class where it all began.

If you have a friend, sibling, or relative in college taking an interesting class nearby, find out if you can sit in on a lecture or two! Who knows, you may just fall in love with a college campus or discover your new lifelong passion.