Adrian Gilliam, 17, will graduate from UCF this week at an age before most students even start attending college.

Then again, he’s always been ahead of the curve. When Gilliam was 4, he started homeschooling through Florida Virtual School, an online public school that allows students to learn at their own pace, and at 13 the Orlando native started classes at UCF.

Now as one of the university’s youngest graduates, he will earn his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science during Thursday’s 9 a.m. commencement ceremony at the CFE Arena. (The university’s youngest graduate was a 16-year-old in 1998.)

“I never was really trying to be the youngest graduate,” Gilliam said. “But being such a young graduate is something I’m proud of. I’m just a normal alumni.”

Some might argue about whether his accomplishments at such a young age is “normal.” From early on, Gilliam balanced martial arts training and learning Chinese with his schoolwork. In 2007, he won his first of several national level tournaments at the U.S. Open Karate Championships, and later that year, at the age of 10, earned his black belt.

When he was 12, he started online classes on FLVS.net, where the state provides live teachers. He took all honors and AP courses, except two years of Chinese language, receiving As in all FLVS classes, said his father, Michael, a UCF alumnus with a master’s in business. He now is fluent in Mandarin and finished the course work needed for early college admission in August 2011, the same month he started UCF.

With that background, he wasn’t intimidated by attending what has become the second largest university in the nation.

“With so many students here, I take that as an opportunity to show that you can make a difference,” he said. “It’s up to you to create your own opportunities.”

– CECS –

The original story by Gene Kruckemyer was published 5-6-2015 on UCF Today.