At just 14 years old, Thessalonika Arzu-Embry is set to graduate from college on August 30th! The teen scholar was homeschooled from the ages of 8 to 11 by her mother, Wonder Embry. “My mother is a strong inspiration to my success,” Thessalonika acknowledged. “She is a veteran of the United States Navy and when she finished her tour, she homeschooled my brother and I.”
Thessalonika’s mother explained that by instilling discipline in her daughter, and encouraging her to strive for more than just a mediocre education, she was just doing right by her daughter. “The parents are the most influential force in their own children’s lives, and they have the power to influence them to do good and to go forward,” Mrs. Embry declared.
After earning the equivalent of a high school diploma through homeschooling, Thessalonika passed the entrance exam for the College of Lake County at age 11. She said that the reason she chose college at such a young age was because she loves studying (she started reading textbooks at age 5 or 6). She also has an interest in psychology that goes far beyond just general knowledge.
Thessalonika will receive her Bachelor’s Degree in psychology from Chicago State University, completing a four-year degree in just three years by taking summer classes. If that’s not impressive enough, she carries a 3.9 GPA and is a member of CSU’s Honors College, a program designed for talented and highly motivated students. Thessalonika also serves as a student senator.
Education is a family affair for the Embrys, and Thessalonika credits much of her success to the strong support that her family provides. Professor Kathryn Rogalski, associate dean of social sciences at the College of Lake County, told The Daily Herald that whenever she met with Thessalonika, her mother, brother, and father would all come along. “It’s important to have a support system, especially when your peers are in a different place than you are,” Rogalski said. “My biggest take-away from working with her is the importance of family.”
Thessalonika and her mother even go to school together. Mrs. Embry is a graduate student in clinical psychology. Mother and daughter get up at 5:00 am most weekdays. Their morning routine consists of prayer and Bible studies, followed by working out at a local fitness center before starting the hour-and-a-half commute from their home at the Great Lakes Naval Station to the CSU campus, located on the city’s South Side. During their long commute, they study theory together and discuss their homework assignments.
Despite being barely into her teens, Thessalonika says her college experience hasn’t been much different from that of any other university student. Except perhaps, for wild parties – not an option since her mother is there – but that’s fine with her. Thessalonika told The Daily Herald: “My college experience is a traditional college experience for me – it is just that I have completed it faster. I am very excited about joining others in having the opportunity to contribute to society in a significant way.”
Thessalonika believes that a person’s college experience is what one wants to make of it, and for her that means working hard. She spends much of her time studying, reading, and working with other students. While fellow classmates are often surprised by her young age, they generally don’t treat her any differently, especially since she helps them study.
After graduation, Thessalonika plans to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology at Stanford University or Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Her ultimate goal is to help people through a clinic she hopes to establish with her mother and her brother, Jeremy.