Emma Earhart has always been a straight-A student, but she was more than just bright — she was brilliant. Emma excelled in grade school and middle school and her mom always knew she had a potential unlike most children.
"We always joke around that house that if Emma tells you something outrageous, do not disagree with her," Emma's mom, Kathy Earhart, said. "She would just always remember these random things. She loves the 'Guinness Book of World Records,' science, her favorite move is 'Planet Earth.'"
It was clear that Emma was unlike most kids and she had an affinity for learning. Soon, school wasn't teaching her enough. "After 8th grade, I went to high school for three days," Emma told CBS News. "I decided this isn't for me."
When Emma was 14, Kathy did research on kids who went to college after middle school, and knew it was possible for her own daughter.
Emma took the Texas Success Initiative test, which is used to determine if someone is ready for college-level course work, and passed with flying colors. "I took my transcript up to the [North Central Texas] college and enrolled in dual credit classes," Emma said.
The dual credit hours at North Central Texas allow students to earn a high school diploma and an associate's degree simultaneously. With an associate's degree under her belt, Emma enrolled in the University of North Texas. "And now, that's where I go with my mom," she said.
That's right, the 16-year-old's ambition inspired her own mother to enroll in college at the age of 37.
"I had taken dual credit [courses] 20 years ago when I was in high school," Kathy told CBS News. "I thought my ship had sailed on that. I was a stay-at-home mom full time." But when her daughter started college, she said to herself, "'OK, if she can do this, I can do this.'"
First, the mother of three enrolled in a few classes, none with Emma. She said she had a few amazing professors who inspired her to keep pursuing her education.
The next semester, Kathy convinced Emma to take a class together. "She was resistant at first, then once we did it she was like, 'OK, I really like this,'" Kathy said. "And this semester, I actually signed up for classes first and picked them all and then Emma chose the same as me."
Now, the mother-daughter duo are in all the same courses — and it's a heavy load. They're currently taking organic chemistry, physics, social psychology, and sociology of health and wellness.
All these courses are preparing the Earharts for their future careers. Emma hopes to go to medical school and become a surgeon. Kathy hopes to go to medical school, too. "I would like to be a dermatologist. I'm currently an esthetician, so I do skincare ... but I'm also open-minded that I could change my mind in medical school."
While she has dreams of growing her career, Kathy says pursuing her education while raising three kids is difficult — even if one of those kids is right alongside her in class. "It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done," Kathy said. "I'm a small business owner as well, so I still work throughout and go to school full-time. I have no social life right now, but I know it will be worth it in the end."
What makes it easier is having a supportive boss and family. "I can do this. I just have to stay focused," Kathy said. "I hope it inspires [my kids] to go after their dreams."
As for Emma, college has been "wonderful," and having her mom there actually made it more special. "People don't treat me any differently... people don't usually know that I'm 16 unless I tell them, or my mom tells them," Emma said, "It's been a really wonderful experience, actually, and I don't think my age has really affected anything."
The two said they commute to class together, study together, volunteer at a local hospital together, and have even started making friends together. Surprisingly, it's not the teen in this relationship who sometimes feels the need for more space. "Sometimes I'm like, 'Emma, I just need a break,'" Kathy said with a laugh.
The mom acknowledged it's common for teenage girls to disagree with their moms before they eventually develop a friendship. But Emma seemed to mature quickly and jump right into a friendship with Kathy.
"I always saw my mom be really good friends with her mom, my grandma," Emma said. "And we always had a good relationship, but this experience has made it so strong and she's my best friend while also being my mother. It's crazy."
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