By Lana Douglas, News & Observer
One look at Ty Hobson-Powell and you may think that he is an average teenager.
He likes to play basketball and video games; he even occasionally wastes time on Facebook and Twitter.
But Ty isn’t the average 16-year-old.
He began classes at North Carolina Central University School of Law in August after he became the youngest person to graduate from the University of Baltimore at age 15, finishing a four-year degree in two.
The average age of a day-time student at NCCU is 24 years old, according to Linda Sims, associate dean for student services at NCCU school of law.
“I wouldn’t say that I always knew that I wanted to get finished early,” Ty said. “I can say that from a young age I was driven.”
When he was three years old, he learned how to read, write and speak Chinese.
“He’s always been a very above-average kid, but normal,” said Edwin Powell, Ty’s father. “The word ‘why’ was always in his vocabulary,” he said.
His mother, Liz Hobson-Powell, describes him as always being “very inquisitive.”
Ty credits his success to motivation and having a semi-photographic memory. After briefly studying a chart or graph he can remember it verbatim.
Ty’s three siblings are also accomplished.
His older sister graduated from high school at age 17 and college at age 19.
His two younger siblings, Quinn and Reid, also show promise in their areas of interest.
“[There was] no pushing force from our parents,” Ty said. “They just reinforced our passions and did everything in their power to help us achieve our goals.”
Ty’s father is a professor at Howard University and his mother is a commander with the U.S. Public Health Service.
“I would have to say that we’ve encouraged them and with all the strengths that they have and given them the tools to go out and do what it is they feel they would like to do,” Hobson-Powell said.
“I’ve always said to my kids, putting letters behind your name does not define success, but leaving behind a legacy and looking behind saying ‘I’ve helped somebody,’ that’s how you define success,” Powell said.
Ty chose to go to school to become a defense attorney after he met someone from the Innocence Project, which works with people it believes have been wrongfully convicted.
“I want to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves,” he said.
He also has a passion for public speaking.
His message encourages students to capitalize on every opportunity they get and parents to help their children achieve success in whatever path they choose.
“I think it’s reasonable to believe that a lot more people could be where I am right now,” Ty said. “Hopefully, I can instill values in youth and even adults to go out and strive to be as good as they can.”
“In a non-cocky way, I want to make sure that there are more stories like mine, because there’s a lot of people like me and a lot of people with potential to be like me, but for whatever reason, be it lack of support at home or lack of drive from within, are not where I am currently,” he said.
After he graduates from NCCU, Ty says he may attend medical school or get into politics.
This story was originally published on September 28, 2011 at newsobserver.com.