Ever watch that old television series Doogie Howser? Well, sometimes, truth is a little stranger than fiction. According to Associated Press news reports, Washington State native Courtney Oliver, a 10 year old, has completed an online college course and is now enjoying work as a veterinary assistant. Though qualified to be a doctor of Veterinary Medicine, her young age keeps her at the assistant level. But this doesn’t phase Courtney in the least as she’s doing what she really enjoys — working with animals. When asked what lead her to choose a career as a vet, Courtney stated she’d wanted to help animals for a long time and that “I have a dog Maggie and two hamsters and I just thought: ‘Well, if I have so many animals why don’t I just work with them?”
South Bay Veterinary Hospital, Olympia’s Dr Michelle Shoemaker serves as Courtney’s friend and mentor. At the hospital, Shoemaker and Courtney can often be seen, side by side, working together. Some at the hospital have joked that it’s tough to tell the two apart when they’re wearing their surgical masks. About Courtney, Dr. Shoemaker says — “She’s amazing. She’s a wonderful girl. Always been so bright, very very smart actually.” Courtney seems to share this sentiment with her mentor. “Dr. Shoemaker and I are like twins,” Courtney said in an interview with CNN, “We just love animals. We just wanted to do this because this is our thing.”
A few years older than ten and still want to be a vet? Don’t worry, you’re in a comfortable majority. My wife is just now awakening to her love for animals and is taking the first steps on the road to becoming a veterinary assistant. Perhaps she’ll take some inspiration from young Courtney. But though Courtney is in the headlines today, she’s not the only young prodigy to grace the pages of national media. In recent years, a number of other child and teenage prodigies have come to the fore. The story is often the same — these youngsters decided what they really loved to do and didn’t take no for an answer.
For example, at the age of only 7, Adora Svitak published her first book — Flying Fingers — in 2005. A guest on ABC’s Good Morning America, Adora impressed audiences with both her literary ability and her humanity. As an author, I can really appreciate Adora’s accomplishments. For my part, it took me ten years to write just one book so I’m amazed at this girl’s accomplishments. Another child prodigy author was Christopher Paolini who, according to CNN new reports, began penning his popular epic fantasy series — Inheritance — at the age of 15. Paolini says he was inspired by his dreams about dragons and his desire to create a living story out of his imagined experience.
Child prodigies don’t confine themselves to the fields of writing and medicine, however. They can be found in all walks of life and throughout much of modern history. Ever sing the song ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?’ This tune was composed by none other than Wolfgang Mozart at the age of five. Other more recent geniuses include Alia Sabur who, according to Wikipedia, left public school at the fourth grade, graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York at Stony Brook at age 14 and is now attending Drexel University. Her field of specialization? Engineering. Another child scientist Korean Kim Ung-yong began attending college courses at the age of 4 and had received a PhD in Physics from the University of Colorado by the time he was age 14.
Because many adults struggle their whole lives and often fail to accomplish what many child prodigies do with seeming ease, they are often both visible and celebrated. For some time now, educators and counselors have debated the cause of child prodigy — be it innate talent, support, coaching and encouragement by parents or some magical combination of both. But regardless of cause Courtney and others continue to inspire and show us what humans of any age or background are capable of when empowered to pursue their dreams.