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17-year-old making history as one of MSU Denver’s youngest graduates

Anna Watson will be the youngest graduate in the university's spring 2022 commencement.

DENVER — A 17-year-old will be making history as one of the youngest students to graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver

Anna Watson from Littleton has always considered herself an overachiever, and said graduating from college before her 18th birthday has been a goal since she was in middle school.

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“I just wanted see how far I can go in things, and school was one of those areas,” Watson said. “I had to get 100% on everything.”

Watson said the plan to graduate early got started because of injuries, after she started taking gymnastics early in life.

Credit: Byron Reed
Anna Watson, will be the youngest MSU Denver graduate at their 2022 spring commencement at 17 years-old.

“I did gymnastics for about 11 years growing up, and that was my whole childhood every day. Practice for hours. My goal was to go to the Olympics,” Watson said.

But just before high school, she snapped tendons in her right foot and shattered a fibula, the thinner bone in the lower leg. She said she had too much free time on her hands and had to do something, so her freshman year of high school, she enrolled in courses at Arapahoe Community College.

Credit: Anna Watson
Anna Watson (r) started taking college courses when she was a freshman in high school.

“It wasn’t until middle school when I really found out about the whole college credits in high school idea,” Watson said. “I looked like I was 7 when I was 13, so it was pretty crazy. I got a lot of weird questions and interesting conversations, but it was really fun.”

Last spring, at age 16, she was able to transfer her college credits to MSU Denver and take advantage of the university’s College Credit in High School program, which has served over 5,000 high school students since it began in 2014. Jessica Buckmaster is the manager of the program, and said she’s seen an enrollment increase this past year.

“On average, most students that are taking classes within our program are graduating in three years, compared to their peers not participating and coming in as incoming freshmen,” Buckmaster said. “So you can save a full year if you do it right.”

Buckmaster said she’s seeing a 39% increase in students like Watson who are concurrently enrolled in high school and college. She said graduating early with both diplomas helps the students and their families.

“It saves students time, saves students money, because in cases of concurrent enrollment, those classes must be tuition-free to students and families,” Buckmaster said.

Credit: Alyson McClaran

Watson, the youngest graduate for the spring 2022 commencement, is also an outside hitter on the MSU Denver’s women’s volleyball club team. She will be graduating with a degree in applied mathematics with a minor in political science and holds a 3.25 GPA. She’s also graduating from her high school, Colorado Early College in Inverness. 

She said a key lesson she’s learned from all her work is to remember to be more self-compassionate and still stay motivated.

“It’s a deep-rooted part of me,” Watson said. “It’s very hard for me to just take a break or not be looking for the next options, so hopefully it helps me accomplish some pretty cool things, but we’ll see.”

After graduation, Watson said she has no set plans but has a couple of internships she's looking into. She said she's already had a few job offers, but mostly she wants to take a break, play volleyball and work on growing her tutoring business.

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