Black teen from Chicago earns a Master’s degree at 14

Dorothy Jean Tillman, 14 (provided to Rolling Out)

Now here’s some much-needed good news.

Meet Dorothy Jean Tillman, a 14-year-old from Chicago and graduated from Unity College with a Master’s degree in Sustainable Science and Environmental Planning. 

She began taking online high school classes when she was nine years old. 

After finishing those courses, her mom asked her if she wanted to earn an Associate’s degree. By 2018, she had already graduated from Excelsior College with a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities. During her graduation ceremony, it was discovered that 60 years separated her in age from the eldest graduate in the class. That individual was 72. 

Tillman, who goes by the nickname DJ, told Albany’s News10 that she wanted to go into Environmental Engineering because, “it’s all about helping people, the environment, and that’s just what I love to do, that’s what makes me happy.” 

In an interview with Rolling Out, DJ said that her path “isn’t for everyone.” She says that the quarantine is likely showing a lot of other students that learning online may have been easier for them because it takes away the stress that comes with being in the classroom. 

“One thing that I would want every kid to know,” Tillman says, “Is that what I did is an option and that they can do it too. It doesn’t take a genius or someone who has been learning forever. I’m not perfect. I’m not the smartest person in the world. It just takes dedication.” 

This is Black girl magic.

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