College Dream Almost Delayed For Hernando 15-Year-Old After Grading Hang-up

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John Boyle Jr. is a 15-year-old prodigy preparing to study computer science this fall at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

John Boyle Jr., 15, will study computer science this fall at Baylor University in Waco, Texas (Photo provided).
John Boyle Jr., 15, will study computer science this fall at Baylor University in Waco, Texas (Photo provided).

But the wunderkind almost had his college career delayed after finding out the Hernando County School Board only gave him a partial credit for an English course.

Boyle, who skipped the first and sixth grades, took dual-enrollment classes at Pasco-Hernando State College during his four years of high school. He completed a Shakespeare literature class at PHSC to fulfill his high school’s English credit.

However, the Hernando County School Board only gave him partial credit. Each year, the Florida Department of Education compiles a list (PDF) of dual enrollment courses that students may take for credit. The ENL 2330 Shakespeare class was not on the list.

Boyle’s father, John Boyle Sr., said he thought it didn’t make any sense, as the Shakespeare class was the highest numerated English literature class offered at PHSC. Any other English class would have been equivalent to a composition course the younger Boyle had already taken.

“But if you look at the list, it says on the list right at the top, ‘this is not an all inclusive list,’” the elder Boyle said.

In an April 4 email between John Boyle Sr. and Kathryn Hebda, the FDOE’s chief of staff, Hebda wrote, “(c)ourses not included on this list are to be determined by the district how high school credit will be awarded based on completion of the course.”

Hernando County School District spokeswoman Karen Jordan gave the following statement via email.

“Hernando County Schools made multiple attempts to inform the Boyle family that the Shakespeare course, taken by the student, was an elective course and did not qualify for English credit,” she wrote. “The FLDOE publishes an official list of dual-enrollment equivalency courses that guides that determination. The awarding of the .5 credit for the course was a gesture of compromise and good will to the family and was not required by the district.”

But because the school board did not recognize full credit, the younger Boyle still had to take a one-month, lower-level online English class starting in April to graduate on time.

“It was stressful because I ended up having to take another English class while I was trying to get my last semester done,” John Boyle Jr. said. “I had to rush through it and that was at the same time I was having my finals for all my college classes.”

Despite the setback, the younger Boyle had been offered two scholarships to attend Baylor, and the university is offering full credit for the Shakespeare class.

He also enjoys playing musical instruments — primarily the violin — but also plays the guitar and trumpet and teaches piano. He said he sees a correlation between math and music.

“Ever since a young age, I’ve been playing music, and they say that music helps develop your brain,” he said.

John Boyle Jr. joined the Hernando Youth Orchestra when it was formed in 2007. Ellen Paul, the executive director of the youth orchestra, said he was one of the first violin players before being appointed as the concertmaster about two years ago.

Paul said the concertmaster is the intermediary between the administration of the orchestra and the musicians. He is introduced once the orchestra is in position and is typically the first chair violin.

John Boyle Jr. is the eldest of six children, and all of his younger siblings have followed in his footsteps — both by joining the orchestra and by accelerating in their academics.

“His parents have told him that excellence is important, and he is an embodiment of that,” Paul said. “He wants to be the very best, most serious, most successful, most loving older brother that anybody could be.”

Joseph and Maria Boyle, the second- and third-oldest children, have already received full scholarships to New College of Florida, awarded from a Brain Bowl competition through the PHSC College Reach-Out Program.

“This is a family that we should all emulate,” Paul said. “They’re doing everything right. It’s been a pleasure to have this family in our sphere of influence.”

About Li Stalder

Li Stalder is a reporter for WUFT News. She can be reached at lstalder@ufl.edu or 352-392-6397 or 352-392-NEWS. Follow her at @listalder.

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