Meet Blanca P.

Liberal Arts and Science: Math and Science Graduate

“I don’t think people treat me like a 17-year-old, they just treat me like a student. At Hudson Valley, I really feel like I fit.”

On first meeting her, you’ll find teenager Blanca Parker is confident, intelligent and has an inquisitive love of numbers and the science of mathematics. She is poised and answers questions with a thoughtful, professional demeanor.

After starting her college studies two years ago at just 14 years old, Blanca will be Hudson Valley Community College’s youngest 2022 graduate this spring, at the ripe old age of 17.

As she neared the end of middle school, Blanca and her family were looking for alternative ways she could continue her inquisitive exploration of mathematics – a subject that had long fascinated her. With her intelligence and inquisitive nature, she needed something challenging and flexible enough to meet her needs. During the summer after eighth grade - for fun, she said - she took a college-level Personal Finance course at Hudson Valley.

“I’m just someone who loves to learn, so I decided to take a class during the summer after eighth grade. I loved it and wanted to see if it was something I could continue in the fall,” she said.

As a 15-year-old, and already advanced enough to start the Calculus sequence, Blanca started to take a few college-level courses each semester to compliment additional work she was completing as a homeschooled student.

Eventually, she became a full-time student and entered what’s known as the college’s 24 Credit Hour Program, which allows students to complete their high school equivalency diploma while attending college. She’ll graduate this spring having earned her high school diploma and also an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts: Math and Science.

“Math is something that I’ve always loved. When I was very young, I became fascinated with numbers and puzzles but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in its role in history and its impact on technology, architecture, engineering. All those fields, there’s usually a mathematical component hidden in there somewhere.”

She’s truly excelled her studies, earning President’s List honors in each semester she’s been eligible and a 4.0 GPA. And, despite her youth, Blanca said she’s had little trouble fitting in with her fellow students. “I worried about it a little bit in the beginning, but my classmates have always been really nice to me. I don’t think people treat me like a 17-year-old, they just treat me like a student. At Hudson Valley, I really feel like I fit.”

Her professors have been not only encouraging but they’ve embraced her interest in studying beyond the classroom. “The faculty are really so welcoming and their passionate about teaching. If I want to explore a subject, or look into something I might not know about, they don’t see it as a problem. They encourage me,” she said.

When she graduates with the first of what will likely be many college degrees this year, Blanca will be thinking of her grandfather, a University at Albany Anthropology professor who was the main inspiration for her love of learning and who encouraged her to jump ahead with college courses.

“He was the biggest supporter of my alternative educational plans and he was also my best friend,” she said.

In April 2020, during her first year at Hudson Valley, Blanca lost her grandfather to cancer. She was devastated and said she found it difficult to continue her education without his support.

“He was there for me throughout my school career as I dealt with issues like bullying and health conditions. He taught me to love learning, even about notoriously difficult subjects or areas like English that were outside of my comfort zone.”

Blanca’s future college destination is still undecided but her goal is to continue her studies in math and to one day earn a Ph.D. in applied mathematics. Wherever her studies take her, she’ll always appreciate the start Hudson Valley gave her and she’ll always cherish the inspiration of her grandfather.

“He is still my greatest source of motivation,” she said.