BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — One Woodlawn High School student will graduate and start college as a sophomore with 36 college credits!
It’s part of Woodlawn’s Early College Program. As a senior in high school, Malika Freeman already plans to study mechanical engineering in college. The decision wasn’t hard for her at all. Freeman tells us she has enjoyed science and engineering since seventh grade.
“I’ve always known I wanted to do engineering,” Freeman said. “Ever since the seventh grade, I put together this building with dots and some toothpicks.”
Freeman continued to tell the story saying the instructor took a photo of her project saying he would take it and send it to his boss of an engineering company. Excited, Malika went home and told her her mom the story and it solidified her interest in the engineering field.
As far as what it’s like attending college classes at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and high school at Woodlawn, Malika says she enjoys it and has even gotten to shock some of her college classmates when they found out she was only 16 years old in a college Spanish class.
The Early College Program at Woodlawn High School takes high schoolers to college to earn college credits that are transferrable once they graduate high school. In ninth grade, the students apply during their second semester and Principal Dr. Terrell Brown says about 20 students are chosen to then attend college classes from tenth until twelfth grade.
By the time Malike graduates high school, she will have over 40 credits going into whichever college she chooses.
In addition to studying engineering, Malika hopes to create more opportunities like Summer camps for young African-American girls who wish to pursue science and engineering-like career paths.
“That way I can expose and push young African-American girls to purse such fields. Because sometimes they’re like ‘that’s not for us, it’s just for boys. We’re supposed to go to nursing,’ but no you can be an engineer and you can work alongside and get the same pay as your male counterpart,” Malika said.
Dr. Brown tells CBS 42 Malika is a hard-working student who knows what she wants in life.
“I would describe her as a student that has a vision for where she wants to go in life and she has started that at an early age,” Brown said, “and with her determination and with her support of her family I know that she will meet all of her goals.”
Not only does she take college classes in addition to the average high school day, Malika also works at Chick-Fil-A. She said she enjoys the little interactions she has with strangers she would otherwise not get a chance to connect with.
Up until now in Malika’s academic career, she has always been able to rely on her mother, Marvette Owens, whenever she needs a shoulder to lean on. Not only does she push her in the classroom, but she inspires her to work hard each day.
“My mom is a ‘go, go, go’ kind of person and she rarely rests and it really inspires me,” Malika said. “Its’ like, well if my mom’s not resting then I can’t rest.”
Her mom said Malika’s interest in science started at a young age and she made sure to encourage her in learning more about it.
“As far as her liking engineering and things like that we started off with space and anything that was going on in space or anything that we would find out with the moon, or any type of eclipse, lunar eclipse, we would stay up to try to watch those things and she would get really excited about that,” Owens said. “So she began to get an interest in space and then I put her in different summer programs that were available for girls in science to try to push that.”
This spring Malika is one of Woodlawn High School’s contenders to be the school’s valedictorian, Dr. Brown said. And after she graduates, she hopes to attend Spellman College in Atlanta, Ga.