Teen with a Dream – MSU Denver RED

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It’s like someone pressing Anna Jane Watson’s fast forward button.

The 17-year-old from Littleton will slow down long enough to cross the finish line in May and graduate from her high school, Colorado Early College Inverness and Metropolitan State University of Denver, making her one of the youngest graduates in the University.

“I feel like the hard work I’ve put in over the past few years has paid off, and I’m extremely relieved to have finished,” said Watson, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in applied math and a minor in computer science. Science from MSU Denver. “I would say what I enjoyed the most was going to MSU Denver and feeling like a real student. Once it all came back in person, I just enjoyed hanging out, making a ton of friends and studying and playing volleyball with them.

Watson admits she has always been an overachiever.

“I’ve always been very driven,” she said. “It was a little problematic at times. Like in college, if I didn’t get 100% on an assignment, I would have a complete nervous breakdown. I always needed to push myself.”

She said her typical day often starts around 6 a.m. to start juggling classes, studying, socializing and running a part-time tutoring business. Bedtime is from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Watson’s time management tools include lists and detailed schedules.

“Whenever I got super overwhelmed,” she said, “I just wrote down everything I needed to do. It was more for my sanity, but it was really helpful.

Anna Watson, the youngest graduate for Spring 2022, is an outside hitter for MSU Denver’s Women’s Volleyball Club. Photo by Alyson McClaran

The plan to graduate early began due to injuries. Watson started doing gymnastics very early in his life. “I did gymnastics for about 11 years,” she said. “My whole childhood was like, ‘I’m going to the Olympics.’ That was my goal.”

But just before high school, she broke the tendons in her right foot and broke her fibula, the thinnest bone in her lower leg. “So I couldn’t compete anymore,” she said. “And that was when I was like, I have so much free time now, I have to do something.”

She remembered reading an article about a girl who had graduated from high school at 20, so Watson started studying options. “I asked my mom if she thought it was something I could do,” she said.

A few weeks later, after a few tests at age 13, she was given the green light to start taking full-time math and English classes at Arapahoe Community College near her home.

Then last spring, at age 16, she was able to transfer her college credits to MSU Denver and take advantage of University’s College Credit in High School program, which has served more than 5,100 high school students since its launch in 2014.


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Jessica Buckmaster, manager of the College Credit in High School program, said Watson deserves credit for improving CCHS and benefiting high school students who take classes at MSU Denver in the future.

Buckmaster said that for Watson to apply for the degree, she had to declare a major and a minor. But CCHS required students not to seek a degree, which meant they couldn’t declare majors.

“This prevented Anna and students like her from using their Degree Progress Report, an online tool that tracks a student’s progress and requirements,” Buckmaster said. “Anna asked the question ‘why?’ and this prompted CCHS to work with the Office of Admissions and the Office of the Registrar to change the policy that high school students were not to seek a degree.

Buckmaster called Watson “an incredible student” who embodies MSU Denver’s slogan “Reimagine Possible.”

“Some might think it’s impossible for a high school student to finish a bachelor’s degree at 17, but Anna made the impossible possible,” Buckmaster said. “I know her story is just beginning and whatever she imagines will come true.”


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Portrait of Anna Watson with volleyball
“I feel like the hard work I’ve put in over the past few years has paid off, and I’m extremely relieved to have finished,” said Anna Watson, who will be graduating from high school and her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from MSU Denver. Photo by Alyson McClaran

Watson, who holds a 3.25 GPA, said a key lesson she’s learned from all of her work is to remember to be more compassionate.

“I think my main takeaway was that I needed to be a little kinder to myself and find more balance,” she said. “There was a moment when I pushed myself a little too hard. So this year, I really tried to figure out how to balance everything. I know it’s kind of like a weird lesson – like you don’t have to try so hard.

What’s next for Watson? “I was going to go to college, but my parents said I needed a break,” she said.

The “break” includes growing his tutoring business into a full-time business and then spending six months doing volunteer missionary work abroad in poor countries. Eventually, she thinks she will work in the computer field.

“We’ll see what happens,” she said.