When 16-year-old Kauai Kahanamoku Mansur walks across the stage tonight to receive his diploma from Anne Arundel Community College, he will give hope to other students who want to choose the road less traveled.
The Honolulu-born student is among the youngest to graduate from the college, which he entered at 14. He never set foot in a junior high or high school classroom.
Before he became a community college student, his classroom consisted of a desk in his West Annapolis bedroom, a rigid schedule planned by his mother, Cheryl Mansur, and all the reading materials he could get his hands on. Occasionally, tutors were sought, but much of thework was based on a national home-school curriculum.
"It's the best way to learn," Kauai said.
"With all my extracurricular activities, I was able to spend time with students my own age."
When he wasn't studying algebra, civics, history and English at home, Katui was involved in several projects with the Boy Scouts and St. John's College Varsity Rowing team as well as activities through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
"I started with the rowing clubwhen I was 12," he said. "That's where I matured. It was easy to integrate with them."
Despite his leap into college, he says there are a few things about a formal secondary school program that he missed.
"I'd kind of liked to go into a high school for a day," he said."I miss going to the prom, and basically having a really close friend that I grew up with. In class, you meet someone one semester and they are gone the next.
"But having a graduation here makes up for it."
His serious demeanor also made the transition to college easier. Few college students have inquired about his age, and Kauai aid he prefers it that way.
Work toward his associate's degree in general studies was carefully outlined by college counselors to make sure he was on par with students who had taken routine high school programs. Emphasis was also placed on math and science to meet his goals fora career in the Coast Guard and a doctorate in oceanography.
He admits that college presented new challenges, including much more study time.
"Because I was a home schooler, I needed core courses," Kauai said. "There were courses I couldn't do on my own that I took at the community college.
"I'm graduating with a 3.2 grade point average. It sure would have been nice to have a 4.0, but I felt I had to have extracurricular activities."
From this point on, it seems Kauai will follow a more traditional academic route. He has signed up for the Coast Guard Reserves and plans to continue his studies this fall at Brigham Young University in Utah. He hopes all the preparation and education will one day give him a shot at becoming a Coast Guard admiral.
"I wanted to go to the Naval Academy," Kauai said. "They won't take me because I have a (state-issued high school diploma). IfI can't do it that way, then I'll work my way up through the enlisted program.
"My idea of success is working hard and achieving your goals."
Kauai will be among 11,000 students graduating from the college this year. County Executive Robert R. Neall is scheduled to address the graduating class.
The college graduates will include a number of families getting associate degrees together.