Sequim teen brothers leap ahead

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Kyle and Luke Richard didn't have the typical high school experience - that's because they skipped it altogether.

The Sequim brothers each started at the University of Washington at age 15 after completing a year of high school through a program for gifted young people.

Kyle, 19, graduated cum laude from U.W. in March with a degree in business administration and a concentration in finance. He will attend U.W. Law School in the fall. Luke, 17, will be a junior.

"I like the accelerated aspect of getting college done when I could be doing high school," Luke said.

Both boys grew up in Sequim with their parents, Dennis and Amy. They attended Greywolf Elementary and Kyle attended Sequim Middle School through seventh grade. Realizing Kyle needed more of a challenge, the family made the decision to home school him midway through seventh grade.

Dennis, a retired podiatrist who licenses automated manufacturing processes to laboratories around the world, described a typical day.

"We'd start out with history and current events using The New York Times," he said. "Science was learning to fly a plane."

Kyle took English through an online Peninsula College course. The next quarter he was invited to take more courses at Peninsula.

"We realized he would have exhausted the curriculum at 15," Dennis said.

The 'Young Scholars' path

Dennis contacted the University of Washington to inquire about what classes Kyle should take to prepare for college. Instead, the university invited Kyle to interview for the Halbert and Nancy Robinson Center for Young Scholars.

The program accepts 14-16 students each year who are under the age of 15. According to the Robinson Center's Web site, the program recruits the brightest young scholars in Washington to the University of Washington through the Transition School/Early Entrance Program. International students and teenagers from around the country attend also.

Students are not allowed to live in the university dorms until age 16, so the family bought a home in Seattle.

Both parents said it was a difficult decision, but the choice to enroll Kyle in the program was right one.

"Home schooling and public school were not enough," Amy said.

Kyle started at the Transition School in the fall of 2005. A year of fast-paced high school instruction is meant to equip students with the skills necessary to be successful in college.

"The transition year is intensive," Kyle said. "You learn all the tools from high school in one year."

During the spring quarter of the transition year, the instructors showed Kyle and his classmates how to register for classes at U.W. They enrolled in one university class that quarter while finishing their high school classes. Kyle took Psychology 101, a general education requirement and his first taste of university academics.

"The next year, they turned us loose," Kyle said.

That fall Kyle and his classmates registered for a full course load and joined the freshmen class of 2010. He didn't find the changes too difficult.

"A lot of people got really nervous but most were really excited," he said.

Kyle adjusted quickly, even though he was three years younger than most of his classmates. His size helped.

"I was 6'1" and 200 pounds," he said, "so I looked average. Some of the others were noticeably young."

In addition to maintaining high grades, Kyle balanced playing a high school sport. In the fall of 2006, he played football for Nathan Hale High School in Seattle. He said other Robinson Center students are involved in extracurricular activities, oftentimes music, but he may be the first to do sports.

"I fit in with the new guys and made friends with different people on the team," he said.

He was unable to continue for a second year due to his class schedule.

Luke finds his way

Meanwhile Luke was attending Washington Middle School, a magnet school in central Seattle. According to Dennis, Washington Middle boasts the 100 brightest kids in Seattle and others asked how Luke had gotten in. Luke was accepted into Washington Middle because of high scores on an abilities test he had taken in Sequim.

"We are very thankful to Sequim," Dennis said. "Some Sequim teachers really rallied to get Luke into Washington Middle."

There, Luke helped the basketball team win the city championship while assisting his teammates with homework. Then came the time to decide whether he would follow his brother to U.W.

"When Kyle started there, I wasn't sure," Luke said, "but when he was about halfway through the first year, I was pretty confident that I would want to."

Luke was accepted and entered into the Robinson Center program in 2007, two years after his older brother. When he started as a U.W. freshman a year later, he didn't have trouble blending in either.

"I was the size of most college freshmen," he said. "I never volunteered my age in group work, so that was never an issue."

He chose not to follow his brother in choice of majors, though, and joined the aeronautics and astronautics engineering program. Only 20 sophomores are accepted into the program each year.

"It's not the easiest major but it's a lot of fun because it's based on airplanes and space planes," he said.

Ready for challenges

Both Kyle and Luke are grounded, well-rounded and motivated to succeed in their careers.

Kyle is working at a law firm this summer before starting his first year of law school. Luke is taking private pilot lessons and hopes one day to design airplanes as well as test them.

Dennis calls their success a fortunate mix of genes and environment. When the boys were younger, both Dennis and Amy took particular efforts to challenge them. Before moving to Sequim, they lived on the East Coast and would take educational trips to places like the Smithsonian museums, zoos and coal mines.

The boys didn't watch television with the exception of "Sesame Street" and "Bill Nye the Science Guy." Instead their parents read to them at night.

"We introduced them to the computer with Reader Rabbit and Math Blaster," Dennis said. "They didn't know they could play games on the computer until school."

The boys and their father expressed gratitude to many of the teachers they had in Sequim who helped pave their way to entering U.W. at a young age. They said they would recommend the program to others because they never were cut any slack and were trained to perform at a high level.

"I got to skip the mundane work," Luke said. "I'm glad I was able to avoid that."

Britney B. Maloney is a graduate of Sequim High School and Pepperdine University. This is next in a series of columns about recent high-achieving Sequim graduates and will run through the summer.

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