FLORIDA -- As a teenager, Marissa Zelazo never envisioned herself following in the footsteps of her older brother, Simon, and graduating from college at the age of 20 -- but she'll do just that Saturday.
She'll be one of the youngest students to cross the stage when Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts awards degrees to 377 students beginning at 11 a.m.
"I always said to myself that I was not going to be like Simon. My experience is a little different than his, but I never saw myself graduating this early," Zelazo said Wednesday. "I never saw myself going to college."
Simon Zelazo graduated from MCLA in 2008, after just five semesters at the school, at the age of 20.
"I did it a little slower than Simon," she said. "He was a little older when he went in and he took a lot of CLEP tests, which allowed him to graduate early. I enrolled here at 16. I realize now that I could have taken the CLEP tests, too, and graduated earlier, but it was never about competing with Simon. I just had the confidence that I could do it because he had."
Zelazo, who along with her brother, was homeschooled by their parents, Timothy and Theresa, said her original plan was to attend a local high school.
"I tried Drury High School. I shadowed a few classes and absolutely hated it," she said. "I decided to take my GED instead and went to college. I found people at the college to be more open-minded and friendlier than in a high
She added, "I really have to credit the way my mother homeschooled us for being prepared for college. Once we learned the basics, she'd turn the books and lesson plans over to us. I was already responsible for my own education. I also took a lot of online courses [at MCLA] which was pretty much like homeschooling."
While attending college, she kept busy, joining the dance company, photography club and working on the college newspaper. She also was the only female member of the MCLA men's golf team and started her own business, MJRZ Photography.
"I always took photos as a hobby," Zelazo said. "I used to have insomnia and last year, at 4 a.m. one morning, I decided to start a Facebook business page. Within a month, it had really taken off, and I had done 10 to 15 photo shoots. I now have a home studio, so I can do more now. I have a lot of fun with it. It doesn't feel like work. That's how you know something is a passion -- you have fun doing it."
On Saturday, she'll receive a Bachelor of Science in psychology.
"About a month ago, I realized that I don't plan on pursuing a job in that field," she said. "I'm OK with that. When I came to college, I enrolled in the major because I liked learning about psychology and I like learning about people. I probably should have pursued journalism, but I know that just having a bachelor's degree will help me out in the future. I'm just going to focus on my business, apply for jobs and continue to work at The Range, which is a job I love."
But in the meantime, she's focused on graduating.
"I've never had a graduation. It's a new experience for me," Zelazo said.
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