A 15-year-old who struggled with autism makes history as the youngest graduate of Sam Houston State University

A teenage black boy is set to make history at one of Houston’s state universities. This fall he will be the youngest graduate of this school.

Nehemiah Juniel, 15, will be the youngest graduate of Sam Houston State University.

Nehemiah Juniel: Credit: SHSU

The young scholar will receive his bachelor’s degree in health sciences from the institution on Saturday, August 6, and although the road has been a long one (most people spend 16 years completing K-12 and undergraduate education), it was he not without sacrifices.

While most of the kids were playing kickball, he was solving complicated math equations and reading books. According to The Huntsville Item, he knocked out pre-algebra at age 5 and received his Associate of Science degree at 13.

One of six siblings, he and his sister Gabrielle were homeschooled by their parents. His 19-year-old sister is also scheduled to graduate from SHSU this fall.

Corie Juniel, the duo’s mother, said the school is perfect for her children because it meets the family’s financial needs to fund the two teenagers’ enrollment.

She said, “Financial Aid spent hours with us to work out Nehemiah’s bounty package. They went the extra mile in speaking with the Federal Office for Student Services and were the most patient and resilient staff we have ever worked with.”

She added, “Since my husband is a veteran, we took advantage of his Hazelwood benefits and the Veterans Resource Center guided us through the process.”

School was also perfect because, according to KXXV, it helped autistic Nehemiah navigate school without triggers.

“The day someone diagnosed me with autism, they really tried to explain it to me. The very first thing I said back was, ‘Finally someone understands me,'” said the genius.

His father, Raphael Juniel, said the family therapist suggested he get tested, and both he and his wife said it was “the best thing that could have happened to us as parents and Nehemiah.”

“Getting people to understand me as a person was the most important thing because people were frustrated with me,” Nehemiah said. “You wouldn’t understand why I had to be so specific, why I was scared of a lot of things and when I was diagnosed with autism, everyone else clicked.”

Corie Juniel said she started seeing the signs when he was about nine years old, saying: “You would go into his room and the cars would be lined up by colour, so how dark to light or the crayon box. He threw away all the crayons and then arranged them how he felt they should be in the box, and those were repetitive behaviors.”

As Nehemiah sees it, autism has increased his curiosity.

“Curiosity led me to deconstruct things, trying to figure out how they work, how things work, and I didn’t have the knowledge to put it all back together. I wasn’t necessarily deconstructive; it was just misplaced curiosity,” the prospective graduate noted.

When asked what the biggest obstacles were on his academic path, he answered like most children his age: be careful. This was especially true when the work alongside his cardiology training wasn’t exciting.

Nehemiah said in an interview with KHOU 11: “The biggest challenge was staying focused. It was especially difficult when the course material was uninteresting or something I already knew.”

“I often needed encouragement from others to put myself into such work before I set myself back on the right path,” he also said. “My professors and teaching assistants were the most positive aspect of my experience at SHSU.”

Medical school is in his future and he is currently preparing to complete the MCAT, his school reveals. The young man made it his mission to become a cardiologist.

“I decided around the age of eight that I wanted to be a surgeon,” he recalls. “As I grew, I kept changing and refining what kind of career I wanted to pursue. This led to my decision to study cardiology.”

While his age and varied abilities have wowed the world, even his local NAACP has made arrangements to sit with him. He and his family find the fact that he’s graduating more than enough to celebrate, especially at a time when college enrollment is on the decline.

“He’s an amazing boy who happens to have autism and happens to be 15 years old [and] Graduation,” said Raphael Juniel.

https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/07/30/finally-someone-gets-me-15-year-old-who-struggled-with-autism-makes-history-as-the-youngest-person-to-graduate-from-sam-houston-state-university/ A 15-year-old who struggled with autism makes history as the youngest graduate of Sam Houston State University

James Brien

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