Tommie Tatum - Learning

While the majority of his peers were getting ready for another school year at the Southern High School - Southern School of Engineering, 15-year-old Tommie Tatum was preparing for the first day of classes at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

“When I got to high school I was determined that there was no reason for me to stay for more than three years,” said the Aggie freshman.

Rewind back to a few years ago when Tatum was placed in an accelerated learning program at school. While there he would finish his work remarkably early and disturb the rest of the class while he waited for the next assignment.  Teachers began to recognize his restlessness and gave him an “Iowa State Test,” as Tatum recalls.  It was during that exam that Tatum found he was scoring at the 12th grade level. At that time he was only in the 5th grade.  

“I don’t know if I really consider myself gifted because there are plenty of people more intelligent (than me). I guess I just work for it,” he said.

Tatum skipped the 6th grade and completed enough online courses in high school to graduate in three years. Now the academic star is a mechanical engineering student with a focus in aerospace.

“People always ask me aren’t you nervous being in college so young but I just know what I’m here for,” Tatum said.

Tatum, who is from Durham, N.C., is one of the youngest students at North Carolina A&T and entered the university with a 4.6 weighted grade point average. His academic prowess can be linked to two things –his parents and his drive.

When he was younger he had an infatuation with cars. His mom bought him a tiny Hot Wheels car every week and his father taught him about mechanics. When Tatum got older he coupled his love for cars with his interest for airplanes.

One day on a trip to NASA, Tatum remembers thinking, “sooner or later we’re going to have flying cars and it’s going to be the same technology. If I learn about aerospace [technology] then I get the best of both worlds.”

“I definitely want to work in the fighter plane, space shuttle kind of field. I always found that interesting,” Tatum said, who recently turned 16.

Tatum is adapting to his new life as a college student but quickly realized that collegiate work requires much more studying and time management. As for skipping ahead during his journey at North Carolina A&T Tatum would like to take his time and get the most out of the experience.

“College is about making connections, so I can see myself staying here,” he said.

Points of Pride