In May 2008, at age 18, Jessica Stuart, a Front Royal resident, was the age of an average high school senior. However, Jessica wasn't graduating from high school; instead, she graduated with honors from Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) with an associate degree in science.
Jessica graduated a year early, in 2007, from Warren County High School. She began taking dual enrollment classes at age 15 and had completed approximately 30 college credit hours by her high school graduation. After that head start, she decided to remain at LFCC's Middletown Campus to complete her science degree. She was then accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where she chose to study chemistry and work toward a pharmacy degree and doctorate. She was also accepted to the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary, but chose VCU because of its pharmacy program.
"Originally, I was unsure about what I wanted to do," Jessica said. "However, my love for math guided me toward the sciences, and after completion of several courses, I immediately knew that I loved chemistry and wanted to continue."
During her time at LFCC, Jessica worked full time at Shenandoah Foot and Ankle Center as a medical assistant, where her duties included answering phones, scheduling appointments, making phone calls, checking in patients, cleaning the rooms and checking out patients. She also contacted insurance companies about patients' eligibilities and benefits and sorted and filed claims.
"I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at LFCC," she said. "LFCC made it easy for me to schedule my classes to be convenient."
This was important to Jessica as she juggled full-time work and an occasional second job on the side.
Upon her high school graduation, Jessica received a scholarship from LFCC, which she said almost paid for her entire year of schooling.
Jessica believes her greatest personal achievement is her determination.
"I allow myself to set my goals high, and I work every day to achieve them and set higher ones," she said. "Within the 18 years I have been alive, I have accomplished a lot, but without my determination, nothing would have been possible."
Her advice to anyone thinking about choosing a college is to make the choice based on personal needs rather than outside influences.
"If I had listened to outside influences, I would not be where I am today, nor would I have accomplished as much as I have," Jessica said.
As she looks to the future, Jessica said her priorities are keeping in touch with loyal friends, making a good living and contributing something to society.
"I guess it's just about an average American dream," she said.