If you were to describe Haley Taylor Schlitz, in some ways you could say she's just your average 19-year-old using downtime to game with friends in her childhood bedroom.
But in other ways, Haley’s life is far from normal as she lives at a pace that exceeds expectations.
“When I graduate on May 13th, I will be the youngest woman in the history of the nation to get her law degree, the youngest African American to get my law degree,” said Taylor Schlitz.
She’ll also be SMU’s youngest law grad. And once she passes the bar, she’ll become the first Gen Z attorney.
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So, how did she get here?
“In fifth grade, we had already been having a lot of problems with the school. A lot of microaggressions day-to-day with the teachers and peers, a lot of blatant racism,” she said.
After a teacher told Haley’s mother, Myisha Taylor, that she should consider holding her daughter back, Taylor made the decision to withdraw Haley from the public school system.
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“People told us we were crazy,” said Taylor.
“I was one of the people who told her she was crazy,” said Haley’s father William Schlitz.
But with a homeschool curriculum and the help of tutors, Haley thrived, graduating from high school just two years later at age 13.
“It kind of just took off from there. I did undergrad in three years and graduated at 16,” said Taylor Schlitz.
Her siblings have followed on their own accelerated paths with 16-year-old Ian now pursuing his MBA and 14-year-old Hanna enrolled as a junior at TWU.
“We didn't try to rush them through. It's just when you get to the end of the book, do you just say well it's only December, so we're not going to do anything until next school year? No, you say, let's get book two and let's get book 3,” said Taylor.
In essence, creating their own roadmap.
“If parents were listening to us and said what advice do you have, it’s to step out of the way and stop putting your child in the box you think they should be in based on a number and see what happens. See what happens when your kid's just allowed to explore and thrive,” said Schlitz.
Soon, Haley’s path could come full circle.
After passing the bar, she hopes to pursue a career first in teaching and then in education policy to help reshape the system she struggled to fit into.
“I think I’ve really gotten an opportunity to make the impact that I want to make on the world,” she said.
She hopes others will view her story as inspiration to pave their own path.
“Your journey will look different from mine, but I hope these journeys that you hear inspire you to eat no for breakfast, to understand that these cookie-cutter systems that are in place right now, the public school system being one of many, are not necessarily going to work for you, especially if you’re not cookie dough,” said Taylor Schlitz.