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15-year-old makes history as Sam Houston State University's youngest graduate

History was made in Huntsville, Texas when Nehemiah Juniel became the youngest ever graduate from Sam Houston State University at 15.

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — On August 8th, 2022 Nehemiah Juniel became the youngest ever graduate from Sam Houston State University at the age of 15.

"It's been a really incredible journey. A lot of it was, you know, really learn the ropes of you know how you do high-level education," Nehemiah said. "A lot of what I did before coming here just wasn't going to work. After I started taking especially after I started taking the more advanced level classes."

Nehemiah's drive, interest, and thirst for learning have led him to do some phenomenal things. Like learning how to play the piano by ear, doing pre-algebra by the age of 5, earning his associate's degree by 13, and now a bachelor's degree at the age of 15.

"Nehemiah started writing and reading at two. So he was reading you know books like not Cat in the Hat but like medical books," Nehemiah's mother Corie Juniel said. "He was sounding out the words of the parts of the heart. We thought Man, this kid is amazing."

From making school history to doing nationally televised interviews, the average 15-year-old might start letting those things get to their head, but not Nehemiah. 

"I'm not getting big-headed about it because I understand what I had to do to get to this point," Nehemiah said. "I understand that I'm not the only one who can do things like this. I know a lot of other people can if they're given the opportunity."

Nehemiah isn't just an inspiration for his family, friends, or even his university. He's an inspiration for an entire community because he's an individual with autism.

"He felt lost because we were trying to figure out why aren't you like everyone else? You know, there were six other kids in this house, and something completely different about you," Corie Juniel said. "We're trying to figure out what it was, and when we found out it was autism, It just opened up the doors for us as parents to parent him, and for him just to be that kid he's always meant to me."

Nehemiah says his autism sometimes made college more difficult. Whether it be not picking up on social cues in a group project or being hyper-focused on a certain topic and neglecting everything else. but at the end of the day, he was able to achieve his goal, and he believes others can too.

"Don't think that just because you have autism and you struggle in some areas that you can't do it or you can't adapt or you can't find a solution, because there's always a solution," Nehemiah said. "It might take time to get there. You might need help from others."

Nehemiah's mother says he might miss a few things socially, and it makes him feel awkward, but it's all those awkward quirks that make him who he is.

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