Some students are driven to succeed and they are rightly presented with individual awards to celebrate their accomplishments. So, what happens when you have an entire high school filled with students, teachers, and staff who are driven to succeed? You get the “Prodigy Class” at the University High School of Science and Engineering (UHSSE). This Class of 2014 has all 73 members going on to a two-year or four-college or university, has 56 students (77 percent) having earned a number of college credits , and capped its senior year by hosting U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, two U.S. Senators (Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of Connecticut) and Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy and addressing them on the issues of college readiness and affordability.
No student at UHSSE better epitomizes the word “prodigy” than Nicholas Wollmann. Wollman, a member of the Class of 2014, will enter the University of Hartford this fall as a junior majoring in computer science, having already earned more than 70 credits from classes he took at the University while a student at UHSSE. Wollmann, who has already completed the requirements for a minor in mathematics, said the opportunity to take college courses while in high school was what drew him to UHSSE.
Wollmann says he started teaching himself computer science when he was in the eighth grade and he was hungry to learn more. His teachers at University High School encouraged his passion, and by his sophomore year he was taking three or four college classes per semester.
He added that the faculty in the University’s computer science department was also very encouraging. “We talked a lot about what courses I should take next,” he said.
Carolyn Rosiene, a professor of computer science in the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has had Wollman in several of her classes and will have him in another class in the fall. “He started slowly, taking the 100 level courses and then he just kept going onto higher and higher level courses,” she said. “He has a real passion for computer sciences.” She added that he was an active student in class. “He has always been on top of the material.”
Wollman adds that he really enjoyed his classroom experiences at the University of Hartford. He made friends among the upperclassmen in the computer science program, including some who graduated from the University this year. He wants to follow in their footsteps — “I want to get a fulltime job in this field, hopefully with an employer who will support me as I pursue advanced degrees.”
Wollmann, who was presented with the “Dean’s Early College Award” at UHSSE graduation ceremony on Thursday night (June 12) for having earned the most college credits of any member of the Class of 2014, admits that he was a little surprised at how many credits he’s earned. “Originally, I didn’t think I would get this far,” said Wollman, who also earned 17 credits from courses that he took through the University of Connecticut.
Not too far behind Wollman was Lance Johnson of Coventry. Johnson, who will be attending Harvard University this fall, was presented with the “President’s University Scholar Award” at the graduation ceremony for the highest GPA in his University classes — a 4.0 grade-point-average and 32 college credits earned. Johnson was also cited by UHSSE officials and his classmates for having founded the Cavaliers, a new community-service student organization that is doing good works in the community.
In addition to Harvard, other colleges and universities that the UHSSE seniors will be attending this fall are: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cornell University, Boston University, University of Connecticut, Hawaii-Pacific University, Drexel University, the University of South Carolina, Rochester Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Clark University, among others. In addition, six members of the Class of 2014 will be attending the University of Hartford this fall.
The Class of 2014 has also earned more than $2.5 million in scholarships to attend these institutions.
All of the hard work by the Class of 2014, along with their teachers and staff, has resulted in some significant national accomplishments for the University High School of Science and Engineering, including being named a Magnet School of Distinction in 2014, a Magnet School of Excellence in 2013, 2012, and 2008; being named one of the Best High Schools in America in 2011 and 2010 by U.S. News & World Report; and winning a Sir Isaac Newton Award for Achievements in Science award in 2011. In addition, UHSSE Principal Martin Folan was named a 2014 Magnet Principal of the Year for Region 1, which encompasses the New England states, New York and New Jersey.
In his remarks at the UHSSE graduation ceremony, University of Hartford President Walter Harrison noted that 2014 is the tenth anniversary of the school’s founding. “It has been 10 years of unparalleled excellence in education,” he said.