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JOSHUA CHARI "HIGH SCHOOL TEEN" 8 ASSOCIATE DEGREES


Joshua being presented with the Texas flag and Proclamation signed by the Governor of Texas. Image Courtesy: Mr Raj Chari.

Graduation is a memorable day for every high school senior. However, 16-year-old Joshua Chari chose to celebrate his graduation differently. Chari isn’t officially out of high school but has already graduated from Richland College with 8 associate degrees. The 16-year-old meticulously planned his coursework in such a way that he could complete 7 Engineering degrees and 1 Science degree; the complete bouquet of courses, that the Dallas County College District has to offer.

In a conversation with Media Mahima, Chari’s father Raj Chari takes us through his son’s academic achievements. Joshua's elder brother, Jonathan pocketed more college credit hours while in high school, at the same age of 16 like his younger brother. However Jonathan could file just one degree plan because he was in a different 'Collegiate High School' program compared to Joshua's 'Dual Credit' program at the Community College.

According to Raj Chari, both his sons were blessed with a gifted photographic memory at a very young age. Both the kids would often find themselves bored and inattentive in class since they already knew the subject matter that was being taught.

Joshua’s mother Manjula subscribed to educational magazines like National Geographic to develop the comprehension and reading skills of her children. Additionally she subscribed to textbooks and school notes from cousins in India because she realized that the Indian syllabus was about a year-and-half ahead of the public school standards in Texas.

Joshua Chari Image Courtesy: Mr Raj Chari

Joshua’s parents wanted the educational needs of their sons to be challenged and demanded the same from Berkner High School. The School suggested options like Acceleration Tests, The Criterion-Based Evaluation System among others.

Due to their phenomenal comprehension skills, both brothers started taking up high school courses from 7th grade itself to qualify for the dual credit courses. However the Independent School District wanted it to be a low-key affair and was never in favour of extra courses since it would increase their workload and resources according to Mr Chari. As per Texas state laws, the school is responsible for all the extra credits and a school official was always required to be around to help in processing time-sensitive paperwork.

As Mr Raj Chari puts it, “"We as parents drew up the best game plan, timeline and college courses along the timeline that we wanted both the boys to take up."

Both Raj and Manjula Chari were warned by psychologists and educational counsellors to not push their children for 4-year university programmes at the age of 14 when the state would subsidise their education for majority of the college courses.

However it was not all academics and no play for Joshua. Joshua managed to tread a fine balance between his academics and extracurricular activities.

In Texas, the state policy allows a middle school student to opt for dual credit courses provided he/she proves to the State that he/she is college capable by scoring at or above the TEA set minimum levels on the National Standards tests like SAT, ACT etc. Additionally the school Principal has to approve that the dual credit course fits into the regular schedule.

In order to avoid scheduling conflicts, Joshua’s parents decided to sign up with the Texas Virtual School Network; a Texas Education Agency run online program. Through the program both school and dual credit courses can be achieved by logging in at a convenient time. The State pays for all the courses. The courses listed on this program are run and taught by college faculty from Texas Tech, UT Austin, UT Arlington and other Texas universities.

The Richardson School District Board was never in favour of Joshua’s dual credit programs. According to Mr Raj Chari, Texas schools are paid by an ‘average daily attendance’ formula, on the lines of seats occupied per day, per period. Hence public schools are not interested in their students taking classes in a community college. In other words if the school is offering dual credit courses along with certified teachers, they would prefer the student opting for the course in the school instead of going to community college.

Responding to the specific comments on the attendance formula, Tim Clark, Director of Communications, Richardson ISD said, “RISD encourages students to take dual credit courses. We had 1,475 students participating in the programme in 2015. The number of students participating in dual credit programs in RISD has increased each of the last four years and we anticipate that trend to continue."

Some schools link teacher raises and bonuses to class averages. Consequently teachers argue that they are left with lesser intelligent students in their classes, if the exceptional ones are allowed to test out and proceed to the next higher class.

However Elizabeth Swaner, STEM Principal in a statement to Media Mahima said, "Joshua's achievements are a testament to his hard work, and we were happy to be able to offer opportunities for him to earn college credit through Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses, as well as providing some flexibility in his schedule to be able to take courses at a community college. We are looking forward to watching him achieve great things.”

Due to the advanced nature of his academic accomplishments Joshua is currently pursuing a double major in Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Nanotechnology at the University of Texas at Dallas. He has received a full paid Academic Excellence Scholarship for 4 years.

The Texas State legislature recognized and honored Joshua by passing a bill exclusively in his honor through the house bill HR480 for achieving a unique world record.


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