Local teenager receives degree from Parkland before graduating high school

Photo courtesy of Parkland College Marketing & Public Relations

Photo courtesy of Parkland College Marketing & Public Relations

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Will Vavrin is not the typical high school student.

The fact that he will receive an associate’s degree in science from Parkland College before he graduates from high school puts him in a unique category. Vavrin began classes at Parkland at the same time he began high school at St. Thomas More in Champaign when he was 15 years old.

“[He’s] extremely intelligent,” his father John Vavrin said. “He’s very driven and very hard working. I’ve never seen someone work so hard.”

Vavrin really began to show signs that he was exceptionally driven around 13 or 14. His father recalled that he began writing high school level essays when he was in middle school. He would read the essays and wonder how his son could compose such advanced works at a young age.

Vavrin made the decision to go to Parkland College when he was a freshman in high school. He said he enrolled in his first class at Parkland as an answer to challenge from a close friend.

He has worked hard over the last few years. He has a very busy schedule that begins with a cappella group in the morning, high school classes during the day and evening classes at Parkland.

Vavrin explained feelings of inferiority are what drive him to accomplish more.

“I put myself down a little bit,” he said. “It makes me work harder. Sometimes I feel like I’m lazy and I need to work harder so I push myself to do more things.”

School has not always been easy for him, which is part of the reason why he has learned to work so hard.

“I compared myself to other people and I wanted to match them or do better,” Vavrin said. “I still do that a lot. If somebody does good on something, I’m like, ‘well I should probably do something else that’s really great.’ Competitive, I guess. Part of me feels like I’ve always been number two.”

Vavrin’s father works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and spends a lot of time away from home. He said his son has done most of the hard work on his own. Even though he is often stationed on the other side of the world, he has been as available to provide support via the telephone and do things such as proofread essays for his son at odd hours of the day.

However, he often cautions his son against working too hard and encourages him to make sure that he carves out time in his schedule for a social life.

Even though he enjoys his school work, Vavrin says his busy schedule has worn him down at times.

“I try to have a social life,” he said. “To be honest, some days I would come home so exhausted and had stuff to do but wasn’t able to do it. I’ve literally been so overwhelmed that I had to be ‘sick’ the next day to finish homework.”

Vavrin’s mother, Laura Vavrin, describes him as being a bright child, despite that at an early age he had difficulties learning to read.

“I think he’s fairly smart,” she said. “But, at the same time he struggled a little but when he was younger, so to see where he is now from where he was when he was in grade school is a major accomplishment.”

At this point in his young life, Vavrin is still unsure about what he wants to do in the future. He has many different interests and is undecided about which field of study to focus on. His interests include biology, Spanish, economics, teaching and music.

In addition to graduating from Parkland this year, he will also be graduating as the valedictorian of his high school class. His plans for the future are not set in stone but he is leaning towards attending the University of Illinois at Chicago.