Not your typical Honolulu CC graduate

Andre Wang looks like a typical Honolulu Community College student. If you see him walking down the halls or along the campus mall, you wouldn’t think twice about him.

But there’s one thing that makes Wang stand out: He’s 16 years old and just graduated from HonCC with an AAS degree. This semester he plans to attend UH Mānoa to study engineering, then move on to the U.S. Military Academy.

Even seven semesters ago in 2012, when he started college at 13, nobody noticed anything unusual about Wang, unless the professors pointed it out in class.

Last month, Wang sat down to talk about his stay at HonCC and his plans for the future. Wang’s parents noticed early on his ability to learn fast and decided to jumped right into kindergarten at age 4.

After he reached second grade, his parents decided to take a different approach and home-school him for the rest of his early education. His mother was his main teacher throughout the first few years until Wang was able to teach himself.

By the time he was 11, Wang decided to follow in the steps of his sister, Kaila, who started college at the age of 15 and is now attending the U.S. Naval Academy. Andre plans on following his sister’s footsteps, and he is currently accepted to UH for pre-engineering, but hopes to transfer to West Point.

With an interest in military activities, Wang is enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a high school program sponsored by the U.S. Armed Forces, that allows students to learn the values of citizenship, service to the country, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. Wang has earned the JROTC “The President’s Hundred” for rifle shooting.

Wang said he would like to work someday in the field of weapon engineering, designing weapons that will be make the world a safer place.

Despite his obvious ability, Wang said his time at HonCC wasn’t always easy academically, like when he encountered challenges in his math class.

“I hit a wall,” he said. But, Wang said, he told himself to persevere, remembering his favorite quote by John Paul Jones: “Don’t give up the ship.”

“I don’t see myself as extremely special. I know I’m not perfect. I’m not the greatest 16-year-old that ever lived,” he said.

Wang to tries keep a right balance in life: He takes care of his school work first and only then tries to relax and have fun. He spends some of his free time doing war re-enactments, like this past Dec. 6 when he and his father portrayed military soldiers from the WWII era in memory of those fallen in the Pearl Harbor attack.

Wang has become our latest campus pride, graduating this semester with his AAS before most others his age have finished high school. He is now an inspiration to all students here at HonCC and shows that nothing is impossible.

"Don’t be afraid to push yourself and don’t be afraid to take risks ... but don’t take risks all the time because that’s when one becomes careless,” he said.

By Vania Graves

University of Hawai‘i Alumni