Things TDot Likes: Exceptionalism

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Oct 4, 2011 in Things TDot Likes | Subscribe

Not sure when that bullet-pointed update I mentioned is going to get posted, but this is one of the items I was going to add — and it really merits its own entry instead :)

From the “Ways to Feel Like an Underachieving Underachiever” file, check out this awesome story from the Raleigh News & Observer:1

Motivated 16-year-old enters NCCU law school
Tags: University of Baltimore | Durham | eduation | Ty Hobson-Powell

One look at Ty Hobson-Powell and you may think that he is an average teenager.

N.C. Central University law student Ty Hobson-Powell, 16, with his trademark Washington Redskins hat, waits to see one of his law professors. HARRY LYNCH -

He likes to play basketball and video games; he even occasionally wastes time on Facebook and Twitter.

But Ty isn’t the average 16-year-old.

He began classes at N.C. Central University Law School in August after he became the youngest person to graduate from the University of Baltimore at age 15, finishing a four-year degree in two.

The average age of a daytime student at NCCU is 24, according to Linda Sims, associate dean for student services at NCCU school of law.

“I wouldn’t say that I always knew that I wanted to get finished early,” Ty said. “I can say that from a young age I was driven.”

When he was 3 years old, he learned how to read, write and speak Chinese.

“He’s always been a very above-average kid, but normal,” said Edwin Powell, Ty’s father. “The word ‘why’ was always in his vocabulary.”

His mother, Liz Hobson-Powell, describes him as always being “very inquisitive.”

Ty credits his success to motivation and having a semi-photographic memory.

“If I study very intensely for a week, I can remember some things word for word. For example, I remembered all of the elements of adverse possession in a week,” he said.

Ty’s three siblings also are accomplished.

His older sister graduated from high school at age 17 and college at age 19.

His two younger siblings, Quinn and Reid, also show promise in their areas of interest.

“(There was) no pushing force from our parents,” Ty said. “They just reinforced our passions and did everything in their power to help us achieve our goals.”

‘We’ve encouraged them’

Ty’s father is a professor at Howard University, and his mother is a commander with the U.S. Public Health Service.

“I would have to say that we’ve encouraged them and with all the strengths that they have and given them the tools to go out and do what it is they feel they would like to do,” Hobson-Powell said.

“I’ve always said to my kids, putting letters behind your name does not define success, but leaving behind a legacy and looking behind saying, ‘I’ve helped somebody,’ that’s how you define success,” Powell said.

Ty chose to go to school to become a defense attorney after he met someone from the Innocence Project, which works with people it believes have been wrongfully convicted.

“I want to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves,” he said.

“I chose NCCU Law School because it is rooted in the tradition of breeding lawyers that go out and help the community,” Ty said.

He also has a passion for public speaking. His message encourages students to capitalize on every opportunity they get and parents to help their children achieve success in whatever path they choose.

“I think it’s reasonable to believe that a lot more people could be where I am right now,” Ty said. “Hopefully, I can instill values in youth and even adults to go out and strive to be as good as they can.”

“In a non-cocky way, I want to make sure that there are more stories like mine, because there’s a lot of people like me and a lot of people with potential to be like me, but for whatever reason, be it lack of support at home or lack of drive from within, are not where I am currently,” he said.

After he graduates from NCCU, Ty says he may attend medical school or get into politics.

You can follow Ty Hobson-Powell on Twitter @TyTheOriginator.

Douglas: 919-932-2008

And I thought I was hot stuff when I started at N.C. State at 172:beatup:

Assuming this guy makes it through law school — and if you can master Mandarin at 3, I’m assuming NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve is a relative cakewalk — he’s going to have his education knocked out early enough to do pretty much whatever he wants and still make an absolute killing financially.

Remember the chart I put together on gauging whether law school was worth the expense if I worked the rest of my life as an ADA? Where I intentionally overstated the expenses and understated the revenues?

Mr. Hobson-Powell can start in that far right column at Year 1 instead of Year 7 if he chooses :crack:

I realize there are a ton of other factors at play of course: law is as much about life experience as raw knowledge, it’s a clique-ish profession based on relationships he still has to build, etc etc etc.  But the inescapable reality is this young man has some pretty amazing talent and a golden opportunity to chart whatever path he wants when he graduates.3

Hats off to him — I’m looking forward to counting him as a fellow Legal Eagle alum! :D


From the Things TDot Likes archives:

  1. I’ll ignore that the N&O somehow overlooked tagging this story with either their “N.C. Central University” or “NCCU Law School” tags, while it ensures using them to adorn every negative story relating to NCCU from a commencement speech to missing money to the Durham DA’s office… []
  2. To add even more contrast: he’s going to have his second degree finished by 19; I hadn’t even dropped out from earning my first one at that age :crack: []
  3. Not to mention a level of dedication I certainly didn’t have at his age about anything other than basketball and girls :beatup: []

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Oct 8, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Very cool story, to be sure. But I’ve got to wonder about his job prospects. So much of what we do as attorneys is based on judgment calls, and I’d be wary of taking on such a young attorney. While there’s a rational, financial argument to make the same choices as he did (yay compounding and low tuition), he may have been better off taking 2 years to Peace Corps or Americorps and spend some time doing the personal growth thing. FWIW, I came into college with like 75 credits but stayed four years. That’s one choice I have never, ever regretted.

Oct 8, 2011 at 7:22 PM

I second Va. This was my first thought as well: “Who will hire a 19-year old attorney?!” It seems likely he’ll wind up doing grunt research work for awhile. The human brain isn’t fully mature (from a developmental/chemical standpoint) until 25. That gives him 6 years after graduation in which he’ll need to gain serious life experience.

I also wonder how far his photographic memory will get him. Sure, memorizing elements will come easily to him, but I don’t necessarily know that a photographic memory will come in handy in all portions of law school. (Maybe with multiples, idk.) To be honest, I’d be more impressed if he learned Mandarin at 30 than at 3, because a child’s brain is far more adept to the acquisition of language than that of an adult.

I don’t mean my comments as discouragement by any means. I assume (as I’ve yet to meet him) he’s brilliant and a true asset to our 1L class. I’m certainly amazed! And from one human being to the next- I’m very proud of his plethora of accomplishments. I’m pretty excited to see what will happen to him. Knowledge is power, but hopefully he’ll also have patience and persistence in order to develop the requisite judgment and decision-making skills as he blossoms into adulthood.

I have a sneaky suspicion he won’t hang up the towel of academia with a J.D., though. He’ll probably keep on climbing the ivory towers and wind up the youngest person to hold a Ph.D.

Oct 10, 2011 at 6:19 PM

He might very well go on to get another degree or two, but I’m not so sure his age will be an impediment after finishing 3 years of law school — how many prospective employers really know how old the folks are who they hire now? I had people telling me I looked like I was 22 when I was 27 (and they now tell me I look 35+ when I’m only 30 :beatup: )

The points about judgment are well-taken but there are exceptions to every rule. I certainly wasn’t that mature at 16; on the other hand, after being homeless before I hit 20, I’d like to think I grew up pretty quick in a short period of time. Assuming arguendo he’s not there yet (a point I’m not willing to concede yet), maybe going through this three-year grind — along with whatever clinical programs he gets involved with as a 3L — will have a similar effect on him :)


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