Mother and daughter duo, 41-year-old Kathy Earhart and 17-year-old Emma Earhart, aren't letting anything, including age, stand in the way of earning their college degrees.
Not your typical high school student, Emma had already taken the SAT by the time she was 12 and at age 14, the Denton native decided to enroll in dual credit classes at North Central Texas College, earning both her Associate of Science and high school diploma in one year.
Kathy, who had not attended college as a young person, was inspired by her daughter's success. She enrolled with Emma at NCTC and graduated alongside her daughter with her own Associate of Science degree.
"We have a shared dream to become physicians," Kathy says. "Emma wants to be a surgeon and I want to practice dermatology. When we enrolled as Biology majors at UNT, Emma was only 15 and didn't have a driver's license, so we decided to enroll in the same classes to make commuting easier."
"I was kind of nervous to be in class with my mom," Emma says. "I wondered if people would think I needed my mom's help to get through college. But most people didn't even realize we were mother and daughter and those that did, thought it was really cool that we were getting our degrees together."
Along with pursuing her degree, Kathy also is a small business owner and mom to three children, Emma and her two younger siblings.
"It is really challenging to wear all those hats," Kathy says. "When COVID hit, we were all at home in virtual classrooms. I had to help my younger children in their online schooling, attend my own classes, work and do all the mom things. It sounds chaotic, but we all grew closer and it was fun when my younger two children would watch a class lecture with me and Emma and learn something new."
Kathy and Emma say they were both inspired by their organic chemistry professor Sushama Dandekar.
"While Professor Dandekar's classes were my most challenging classes, her passion and encouragement helped me to grow," Kathy says. "She shared personal stories and helped us realize anything is possible if we want it badly enough and are willing to put in the work."
"Even though Professor Dandekar's classes were really hard, she taught with a fiery passion," Emma says. "She is a wonderful woman who has experienced many hardships in her life. Her stories inspired me to work harder and continue to follow my passion no matter how tough it gets."
Kathy and Emma are both dedicated to excellence and have earned many honors in their two short years at UNT. Kathy will be the first in her family to earn a bachelor's degree and is a member of four honor societies: Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Sigma Pi, Sigma Alpha Pi and Golden Key. Emma is a member of three honor societies: Phi Sigma Pi, Sigma Alpha Pi, Golden Key and made the UNT Dean's List three times. Both Emma and Kathy will graduate with bachelor's degrees in biology and minors in chemistry and psychology. They have plans to earn master's degrees while preparing to take their Medical College Admission Tests.
"I'm proud to be a part of such an open-minded community of students and professors," Emma says. "I am proud of what I have accomplished at my age. I am proud to be doing something so meaningful with my life."
"It is never too late to learn," Kathy says. "It was scary going to college after 20 years, but I realized I'd never know if I could do it if I didn't try. I am proud to attend UNT and be a part of such a diverse, loving, intelligent and passionate community. I am proud to have completed my degree despite the challenges I faced."