South Huntingdon girl, 15, heading to college early
Like thousands of other students in the region, Victoria L. Hrach of South Huntingdon, will be going to college this fall, getting an education that she hopes will prepare her for a career as an orthopedic surgeon.
Unlike other college-bound students, however, Hrach is entering St. Vincent College near Latrobe at the age of 15 — an age when other youngsters her age are taking 10th-grade classes.
Victoria said she feels she is ready to attend college and does not anticipate being intimidated by being one of the youngest students at St. Vincent and attending class with students several years older.
“I am really looking forward to the experience and all that it will present to me educationally,” said Victoria, the daughter of Rachel and Bruce L. Hrach Sr.
She will be one of the youngest students at St. Vincent, college officials say, but her father believes she will be comfortable among the older students because of her maturity.
“I think she will surprise most individuals,” said Hrach, a school psychologist.
Since she is too young to drive, Hrach said Victoria's grandfather will be driving her to school for classes.
Victoria said she selected St. Vincent College because she likes their courses and educational program. She already is familiar with St. Vincent College, having participated in the college's Step-Up Enrichment Program, which allows home-schooled and cyber school students to take enrichment classes on Friday afternoons on a variety of academic subjects and activities such as dance.
“She (Hrach) is a very academically advanced child. She is also compassionate and mature,” said Carol Borland, director of St. Vincent College's Step-Up program.
Victoria already has a step up on her freshman year because she has earned 12 college credits from La Roche College in McCandless and is taking a class in medical terminology at Westmoreland County Community College, near Youngwood.
“I really would like to go to medical school after college,” Victoria said.
Although the Hrach family lives within the Yough School District, Victoria received almost all of her education through the Midland-based Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, from which she graduated in June.
She was able to graduate three years early by starting kindergarten when she was just 4 years old and accelerating her studies through the cyber charter school, Victoria said. She attended Yough Intermediate Middle School's gifted support class while continuing her cyber school classes. Her brother, Xavier, 11, also takes online classes through the school.
When her parents saw that her course work at Yough would conflict with cyber charter school, they opted for all cyber charter school for her high school years, Hrach said.
The cyber charter school experience allows gifted students to work ahead in their classes, said Christina Zarek, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.
Hrach said he and his wife decided to “allow for the nurturing and growth” of Victoria at her own pace.
“I don't hold her back in any way,” Hrach said.
Victoria excelled in cyber school, where she was a member of the Cyber Gifted and Talented Education program. She said she was named the student speaker at her graduation ceremonies at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh because of her academic profile and essays she wrote.
The Pennsylvania Families for Public Cyber Schools chose her as a keynote speaker at the organization's rally in Harrisburg on May 6. She discussed the need for the state to continue funding charter schools and cyber charter schools.
Outside of her studies, Victoria enjoys shooting firearms, which she has done since age 5, her father said. She has been hunting since she was 12 and participates in 4-H trap and skeet shooting.
She is involved in the National Rifle Association and attended the organization's Youth Education Summit in Harrisburg in 2013 and 2014.
She was chosen this year as a state representative to the NRA's Yough Education Summit in Washington, D.C., in June, where she won a $1,000 college scholarship. She was awarded the scholarship for her performance in debates and seminars conducted over the week in which she attended the seminar. The highlight of her trip to the nation's capital was going to the National Archives, where she said she saw “the documents where our freedoms are preserved.”
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.