Closing a textbook, Joseph “Luke” Nelson glances at the digital clock. It’s 11 p.m. and he still has homework to finish for three classes. Yawning, he boots up his laptop to begin work.
Nelson, a Foothill High School sophomore, never felt challenged in school.
“I felt like every class is a joke,” said Nelson, 16. “I am ready to, and already have been, working exclusively on my majors in mathematics and computer science.”
To get the most from his time, Nelson decided in eighth grade that he wanted to do everything he could to graduate early. After only two years of high school, Nelson will fulfill that goal.
“I’m doing this to prove, mainly to myself, that I can accomplish what has been outlined to me as impossible,” he said.
Nelson begins each day at 5 a.m. when he participates in religious study at his church. He then attends school for six hours, and most days, Nelson stays late on campus.
“My favorite subject is calculus,” he said. “I enjoy the time I spend with my calculus teacher after school discussing mathematical theory and solving challenging problems.”
Nelson also works at a dental lab twice a week, where he preps equipment. In the evenings, he does homework.
“I spend as much time with my family as I can,” Nelson said, “but I am sad to say that is less than it really should be.”
Nelson, who received nine-and-a-half credits last year, is taking 12 classes, or six credits, this semester. Along with the 13.5 credits he’s already earned and the four-and-a-half credits he plans to earn next semester, Nelson will have the 24 credits he needs to graduate with high honors.
“I have a love-hate relationship with limits,” Nelson said. “In calculus, I love to learn about mathematical properties, but to hear that I have a limit makes me want to show myself, and sometimes others, that a limit is a mathematical theory that should not be expressed outside a mathematical environment.”
Luke’s counselor, Nicole Vasquez, said: “Luke is the most dedicated and driven student that I have ever met. He is bright, funny and outgoing.”
After high school, Nelson plans to attend college and double major in applied mathematics and computer science.
Nelson’s friend, Dallas Larsen, also plans to graduate one year early.
“My main motivation for graduating early would be to challenge myself academically,” the 16-year-old Larsen said. “I’m already taking some of the top classes at Foothill and I really want to take college classes.”
Similarly to Nelson, Larsen gets up at 5 a.m. for seminary studies at his church. He stays after school three times a week for DEV club, a computer programming group that he and Nelson created. On Tuesdays, Larsen participates in Mu Alpha Theta, a tutoring club for math. Besides taking five Advanced Placement classes, Larsen participates in chamber choir, National Honor Society and two online classes: English and health.
After high school, Larsen plans to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, because it’s cheap and close to home, he said.
“If I go to BYU, I’ll go for a year before I go on my religious mission,” said Larsen. “I’m very excited for my mission. I think it’ll be a great experience.”