Youngest College Graduates in America: Danya and David Hamad
By: Maddie Rule/Arab America Contributing Writer
A year and a half ago, a story broke about Danya Hamad, a Palestinian-American teenager from Columbus, Ohio, who was set to become the youngest college graduate in the U.S. The then-high-school sophomore had spent the past two summers taking dual credit courses at Columbus State’s Regional Learning Center, conveniently located across the street from her high school. At just 15, she would graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree from Columbus State.
Impressive, right? Well, leave it to sibling rivalry to make things even more interesting. This past May, Danya’s brother David followed in his sister’s footsteps, graduating from both high school and an Associate of Arts program from Columbus State. The kicker? He’s just three months younger.
Both kids are clearly very driven, so naturally, neither wanted to lose to the other, and the competition that tends to crop up between siblings played its part. David even joked, “Yeah, I was thinking ‘I’m going to beat her.” But the overall sentiment between the two was support.
“There’s always going to be a part of me that’s just like ‘Well, dang. I wish that I could keep holding on to that title’,” Danya said. “But, I’m very proud to give it to my brother…We’ve been through this journey together, and I feel so blessed and so fortunate.”
Cramming over 60 credits into two years wasn’t easy for either of the siblings. Both began their college studies in 7th grade after being accepted into the College Credit Plus program. From then on, their schedule was grueling. The Hamad siblings took class day and night, 6 days a week, for 6 years. “I typically have homework every single day and I have a class every single day, even on Saturdays…like a three-hour class,” Danya said back in 2017.
Because of their packed schedule, neither teen had any form of social media. They saw it as a distraction from their goals, which makes sense considering how lofty both of the siblings’ goals are.
“I figure the sooner I can get my schooling done, then I can become a lawyer and help people…… that’s a really big goal of mine to change the world,” Danya said.
And not just any lawyer: Danya is set on becoming the youngest practicing lawyer in the United States. At the time of her graduation, she had already been accepted to Capital University’s 3+3 Program, an accelerated Bachelor’s and Law Degree program where students can gain both degrees in 6 years. She begins her law classes this fall, where she hopes to focus on international law and become a human rights attorney.
As for David, he has his sights set similarly high. “Ever since I was a kid I said I wanted to be a heart surgeon,” David said. “Other kids are like ‘I want to be a police officer, I want to be an astronaut’. I want to be a doctor and not just a doctor…I want to be a heart surgeon.”
David will follow his sister to Capital University this fall with a major in biology and pre-med. Then, his goal is to attend medical school at the University of Chicago. He plans to have his degree in medicine by the time he’s 21 years old, and finish his residency by 27.
It almost goes without saying that both Hamad siblings received full scholarships from Capital University.
As for their family, the kids say the atmosphere at home was not one of pressure to succeed. On the contrary, both siblings said that their parents were always supportive and encouraged them to pursue their dreams. When they realized just how determined their children were, Lotfi and Gadah Hamad began paying for college classes well beyond what the dual-enrollment program covered and spent hours in the car so that they could get there.
Danya’s interest in international law and human rights started with her Palestinian roots. Her father is a Palestinian from Jerusalem, and the family still visits relatives in the region.
“I decided that I not only wanted to help the Palestinian people but people all over the world,” Hamad said.