Jessica Brooke isn’t much different from many 15-year-olds. She enjoys hanging out with her friends. She goes to church on Sundays. She likes
music — her favorite composer is Beethoven. She has to study hard for school. Unlike most 15-year-olds, though, Jessica’s school happens to be Weber State University, and Jessica is a senior double-majoring in zoology and math.
Jessica first got started with higher education while still in Arizona as a 12-year-old going into eighth grade. Jessica said she was transferring schools, and the school to which she was transferring wanted her to retake a math class. She went to a community college, took a math placement test and placed high enough to register for the community college.
“I just wanted to try it out, because I wanted to supplement my math class,” Jessica said. “I ended up trying it for a semester and loving it. So I decided just to keep going.”
From there, Jessica graduated with two associate degrees, “one in arts and one in science.”
She said she then wanted to continue with higher education.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” Jessica said. “I want to help people, and I think that would be a really interesting job. I love learning, and I love the science. I love learning this kind of stuff, so I figured I would love doing it as a job and being able to help people.”
So the next step was to work on her pre-med education.
Jessica said she was looking around for pre-med schools and received offers for full-ride scholarships from both Utah State University and WSU. She decided to go with WSU.
“(WSU) has a good zoology program,” Jessica said. “They have a high placement into medical schools for their pre-med students.”
Jessica said another reason for choosing WSU was the opportunities given to pre-med students.
“We get to work with cadavers and stuff, which most undergraduate people don’t get to,” she said. “They have a lot of people from the U (University of Utah) medical school come down and teach special classes. They’re giving really good opportunities to the pre-med students.”
So now Jessica is a 15-year-old pre-med student. In case all that didn’t seem like enough — all the physics, math and zoology — Jessica is also pursuing a music minor at WSU, focusing on piano performance.
“I love music just to kind of get my mind off it, you know?” she said. “Not always be thinking about math and science. It’s a nice break, so I’m not all science.”
Jessica said she doesn’t feel out of place at the university.
“At first, when I was 12, I did,” she said. “But I was even tall then, and I was mature, and so a lot of people didn’t know I was 12. They thought I was underage, but they didn’t know I was 12. At first it was a little weird, but now it’s just become normal. I’ve done this for two and a half years now, so now it’s just normal. I don’t feel different.”
She said she thinks WSU was a good choice.
“I’m really liking it,” she said. “I love the people, and I love the community. The cold is different than Arizona, but I’m getting used to it, and my family’s adjusting well.”
Rachel Brooke, Jessica’s mother, agreed that the adjustment has been smooth.
“Other than the snow, we’re good,” Rachel Brooke said. “We’re used to wearing flip-flops and sandals in the winter, but that’s OK. We’ve just traded them in for boots.”
Rachel Brooke grew up in northern Utah, so much of Jessica’s extended family on her mother’s side still lives here. Rachel Brooke said all her children were having a great time in Utah.
“You know, visiting grandparents on the weekends and having family close by for holidays and things,” Rachel Brooke said. “It’s been a good adjustment.”
Family is important to the Brookes. Jessica said she loves spending time with her parents and siblings — two sisters and one brother, all younger — and said she’d be very lonely without her family around.
“I couldn’t do this without their support,” Jessica said.
Rachel Brooke said she is really proud of her daughter.
“She’s taken on a lot more than most, obviously most kids, and sometimes more than other adults do,” she said. “I think she’s set high goals and really accomplished a lot of what she wanted to do.”
To accomplish all that, Jessica has to put in a lot of hard work.
“Some people assume because I’m smart that I don’t have to put work in,” Jessica said, “which is absolutely not true.”
But Jessica said all the work is definitely worth it.
“I don’t think I’ve missed out on anything,” Jessica said. “I still have friends my same age; I still hang out. I’ve made great friends up here. I’m still a sister. I’m still very close to my siblings. I don’t regret it. I think it’s worth it, that I get to learn instead of just sit in a classroom for eight hours a day and just be sitting there bored in some classes or not learning in others. It’s good, even if it is stressful.”