Hamilton resident Emily Jaruszewski graduated with an associate’s degree in mathematics on May 18, 2017. Then, on June 20, the 18-year old graduated high school.

In math, order matters.

To follow a problem through to the correct answer, you must do one operation before the other—exponents before multiplication, division before addition. But, in rare cases, there are exceptions.

The same can be said of real life—there’s a certain order we’re told we must follow to arrive at the correct ending. But, sometimes, an exceptional person comes along and figures out another way.

Hamilton resident Emily Jaruszewski knows all this. Because the 18-year old just did it.

On June 20, she graduated with 26 other seniors from Mercer County Technical Schools’ Health Science Academy. A month earlier, she earned her associate’s degree in mathematics from Mercer County Community College. She is the first person to earn a college degree before receiving a high school diploma in the history of the HSA.

Jaruszewski, for her part, is fairly relaxed about it all.

“I took all the classes, I earned it,” she said. “But I’m not the only one who has done good work here. The school in general, it’s just a great group.”

She’s not wrong. The Health Science Academy is a full-time, four-year high school which offers students preparation for college and careers in the health, medical and biological sciences. HSA has affiliations with MCCC and Rutgers University, and pupils take advantage of the opportunity. HSA students earned 265 credits at MCCC this school year. One student was named a 2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar. Another earned her licensed practical nurse certification through the academy’s post-secondary program, just a year after graduating high school.

All this pleases Health Science Academy principal Sharon Nemeth. But Nemeth has taken pride in watching Jaruszewski grow in confidence and develop what Nemeth called “a quiet presence.” The principal said she believes Jaruszewski has charted a course that HSA students will follow well into the future.

“I saw a large boost of confidence in Emily,” Nemeth said. “She was always very driven, but I saw that confidence take her to the next level. Once she saw how successful she could be in the college classes, she wanted to try for more and more and more.”

It started two years ago when Jaruszewski wanted to enroll in a Calculus I course at MCCC the summer before her junior year at HSA. Her father, Joseph, quickly realized Jaruszewski would satisfy the departmental requirements for an associate’s in mathematics if she took one math course every semester for the remainder of her time at HSA. A few extra courses on top of that would get her the needed credits to complete MCCC’s general education core.

And so Jaruszewski took three classes at MCCC on her own that summer, and two more in the fall on top of her HSA work, then two more in the spring, another four last summer, four more last fall, one over winter break and the final three courses this spring. Jaruszewski earned 72 credits from MCCC; 66 were from coursework outside of her studies at HSA—all paid for out of pocket. She also earned 12 credits from Rutgers University as part of classes at HSA, and enters college with enough credits to be considered halfway through junior year.

Jaruszewski also spent 160 hours at Our Lady of Sorrows pre-school and childcare center this year as part of an internship required by HSA. When she finished her internship hours, she put in extra time at OLS to earn a bit of income, too.

There wasn’t much downtime on Jaruszewski’s schedule. Some days she would leave for HSA at 7:20 a.m., and wouldn’t get home until 9 p.m., after work at OLS and night classes at MCCC.

The two-year whirlwind should make college a breeze for Jaruszewski, who will pursue a double major at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts this fall. Despite holding the associate’s in mathematics, Jaruszewski plans on studying English and either computer science or chemistry at Smith. She also was one of approximately 50 incoming Smith students named to the college’s STRIDE program, which comes with a $20,000 per year scholarship and a paid research position with a Smith College professor. Jaruszewski will get to pick her research project in the coming weeks.

She credits her diverse interests to her parents, Joseph and Deborah, who made sure to challenge Jaruszewski intellectually since she was young. She’d spend summers off from Morgan Elementary School completing a workbook called Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills. Each book focuses on a specific grade level, and Jaruszewski would attempt to finish the book for the grade level ahead of hers.

That drive and curiosity remain today. Jaruszewski wants to keep her options wide open. She isn’t sure what she might want to research, or what kind of career she may want to pursue after college.

“I really don’t know what I may want to do because I’m interested in so many things,” she said. “I’ll just have to wait and see what stands out.”

If the past is any indicator, whatever Jaruszewski chooses, she’ll be among the standouts.

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Rob Anthes serves as senior community editor, managing the Hamilton Post and Robbinsville Advance. He joined Community News Service full-time in 2007 after interning for the company in 2004 and 2006. The Association of Free Community Papers has recognized Rob's writing during its annual Best of the Best Awards 12 times, most recently in 2017. A lifelong Hamilton resident, Rob is a graduate of Steinert High School and Syracuse University.