RICHARDSON, Texas (CNN) — High school graduation can be a trying time for teenagers.
Prom dates and prepping for college-entrance exams tend to fill the calendars of most soon-to-be graduates. Their schedules don’t typically include meetings with the Texas governor.
But Joshua Chari isn’t your average high schooler.
The 16-year-old is scheduled to receive gubernatorial honors Thursday for completing much of his undergraduate studies and pocketing eight — yes, eight — associate degrees along the way.
How’d he do it? Chari is one of hundreds of students who have taken part in the Richardson Independent School District’s dual credit program, where qualifying students can garner credit for both high school and college at the same time.
Joshua will soon be a Berkner High School alumnus, but at the time this article was published, his only alma mater was Richland College.
The special agreement between the college and Richardson school district “allowed him an opportunity to get ahead in regards to graduation credits for high school and also for college … which did really allow time to be able to get those college credits out of the way and him to earn the associate degrees,” Elizabeth Swaner, principal of Berkner’s STEM Academy, said.
(STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.)
The Texas Legislature has lauded the teen’s accomplishments in commendations and proclamations. House Resolution 80 states:
“The House of Representatives of the 84th Texas Legislature hereby congratulates Joshua Chari on his exceptional scholastic accomplishments and extend to him best wishes for continued success in all his endeavors; and, be it further resolved, that an official copy of this resolution be prepared for Mr. Chari as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives.”
Young Joshua has also earned a full scholarship to The University of Texas at Dallas and because that scholarship comes with a stipend he will likely graduate in the black at a time when student loan debt is at an all-time high.
He maintains a humble attitude despite his accomplishments and told CNN he hopes his education will translate into a successful career as a biomechanical engineer.
“I really knew that … the engineering field was what I wanted to be going into because the projects and stuff that I did from a young age, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer,” he said.
Currently, he’s wrapping up an internship at Marlow Industries, which focuses on thermoelectric heating, cooling, power generation and energy harvesting products.
“Education is just a small piece of all the stuff that I have learned. It’s just kind of the foundation,” he said. “A lot of it is actually the work experience and getting familiar with the industry and stuff like that.”
The proud parents of the educational phenom has some experience churning out boy geniuses. Joshua’s brother, Jonathan, also graduated high school with enough dual credit to earn multiple associate degrees. He also held two patents at age 19.
Still, Raj and Manjusha Chari were in awe of how far Joshua has taken his studies.
“We just wanted him to do his best, do what ever he could. I think he outdid our expectations,” Manjusha Chari, a nurse practitioner, told CNN.
Joshua’s father, a pilot-turned-information-technology-professional, attributes his sons’ success to their early exposure to the sciences. From an early age, they’ve had subscriptions to science magazines geared toward kids, such as National Geographic Kids and Kids Discovery, along with publications like Scientific American, Raj Chari said.
If he weren’t aiming to become an engineer, he’d probably set his sights on professional gaming or race car driving, Joshua said, insisting he’s just a normal kid.
“I am similar to a lot of people. I do regular things. I study for finals. I go to work. I go to school. I play games,” he said.
A totally normal kid, on track to earn his master’s degree before he’s of legal drinking age, right?
His mom said his ability to absorb knowledge comes naturally, thanks to his photographic memory, but Joshua believes it’s applying what he learned that helps him remember.
“You can learn all the time and you might not remember it,” he said. “But once you apply the knowledge that you have gained it kind of sticks with you forever.”