VAN ALSTYNE, TX – Earning your high school diploma can be a momentous occasion, and the same could be said for a college degree. But one Van Alstyne senior is doing both, all before he turns 18.
His name is Justin Larkins; known to friends and teachers as a good natured, smart and hard working teenager. His drive and thirst for knowledge propelled Justin all through high school and now into college.
"Right off as a freshman, just ready to go, volunteering for things right off the bat,” said Shana Sorrels, Justin’s counselor at Van Alstyne High School.
Throughout high school Justin became active in the choir, math and biology clubs. He was also a leader with the Teen Council at the Van Alstyne Public Library. He found a home and mentor there, Judy Spence, and a way to help others.
"Literacy is going down immensely in our nation so I think it should be bumped up, and whatever we can do to get kids in the library,” said Justin.
But even with all of these extra-curricular activities, Justin also started taking dual credit courses at Grayson County College. At first it was just a way to get ahead, but then Justin and his counselor soon realized he could get is Associates Degree. And May 8th, 2010, Justin crossed the stage to receive his degree.
"Whenever I say I'm going to do something, I do it,” said Justin.
Sorrels helped guide him through the tough process, as he took 25 hours one semester to complete his degree on time. But she said all the credit goes to Justin.
"He's the one that made it happen and he's the one that worked through it and did it. He's just awesome,” said Sorrels.
But just like his course work in physics and chemistry wasn't easy, neither was growing up.
"It was hard when my mother died,” said Justin.
At only eight years old his mother was murdered. His mother’s twin sister took Justin in and lovingly raised him as her own.
"When something like this happens you're either going to die or you're going to persevere and move on. And there's probably no really getting over it, and I accept that and I'm persevering,” explained Justin.
Justin said he doesn’t let the loss of his mother bog him down. But he does believe his experiences have helped shape him into the young man he is today.
"He just doesn't let things get him down. Everybody has those moments where you kind of want to give up, you could just see it with him, he wouldn't give up,” said Sorrels.
Justin seems modest about his accomplishments, saying it’s just one more thing he’s succeeded at. But he knows that his family, teachers and mentors are proud, and he likes to think mom is too.
"I think she would be thrilled and I hope she would be. And that's what I believe and I hope and wish that is so,” said Justin.
Justin will walk the stage at Van Alstyne High School on June 4, 2010, to receive his second diploma now. But he’s not slowing down either. Right after graduation Justin starts an internship in Plano that will last through the summer.
And the day after he finishes interning, Justin will head to Austin, TX, to enter the University of Texas as a junior. Justin said he hopes to major in mathematics and chemical engineering with a minor in vocal music.
"He's headed wherever he wants to go, he will be successful and do great things. He’s an amazing young man,” said Sorrels.