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Class Of '17: This High Schooler Hopes To Graduate Early

Kelli Bowdy, one of the students we’re following in our Class of '17 series, is almost through her freshman year at Fort Worth’s O.D. Wyatt High School. She’s even thinking about graduating early. Nationwide, only 3 percent of high school kids manage that.  

Kelli, who's 15, admits she was a little intimidated by the thought of leaving Morningside Middle School for the bigger, potentially tougher high school, O.D. Wyatt. But there might’ve been something else in the back of her mind. Communication had stopped between her and her dad, who is divorced from her mother, with a new family and 3 year-old son.

“We weren’t talking at all because he said that he didn’t have to do anything for me anymore," Kelli said. "That hurt my feelings. And I wasn’t talking to him for a while.”

Kelli managed to make the transition to high school anyway.  

“Sometimes it’s still complicated,” Kelli said. “I’m the youngest, the youngest class. And people older than me there, it just seemed weird.”  

She did get used to the school. Still, English is tough.

“I could not write essays,” Kelli says. “And it just seems like I’m missing stuff. Like in the proper order it’s supposed to be at. Sometimes it throws me off.”

Kelli gets help from her teacher and other students. When it comes to algebra, she’s the one who stays and tutors other kids. Math is one of her best subjects. Overall, she says she’s doing well enough to graduate early.

“I want to be a nurse and I’m actually taking nursing classes now for my Junior year.” Kelli says. “I can be going to the hospital and making what nurses make.”

O.D. Wyatt offers accelerated nursing classes, which is one of the reasons Kelli picked the school. She also plays on the volleyball and basketball teams. So her mom, Gloria Mason, isn’t so sure Kelli will stick with the early graduation plan.

“Because Kelli’s into sports and I think she’ll stay for her senior year,” Mason said.

Kelli’s thought about sports, and graduating with classmates, but is determined.

“I want to work with the babies, with premature babies, because my nephew was premature," she said. "Just going up there visiting him made me work even more because I know what people go through when babies are premature.”

Kelli’s also driven by her grandmother, Minnie Hodge, a retired teacher.

“She’s very smart, she’s very gifted,” Hodge says. “But she still has this thing about her friends. She doesn’t really want to be as smart as she is when she’s around others. She wants to fit in, and I don’t like that.”

Whether Kelli graduates early or not, to grandma, the key word is graduate.

“If she chooses to go with her class, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Hodge said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. If she wants to go ahead, there’s nothing wrong with that. What I want her do is make her choice. Whatever the choice is, make it, and you stick by it because that’s what you want to do, OK?”

“I will try my best to please her, not to let her down,” Kelli responded.

Making that choice might be a little easier for Kelli, because she and her father recently started talking again.  

“Now we talk every day,” Kelli said, her voice slightly upbeat. “We call each other and check on each other everyday and I’m going to spend time with him Saturday and celebrate my little brother’s birthday.”

And another thing she wants to celebrate in a few years: a degree in nursing. Ultimately, she hopes to work at Baylor. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.