BOISE, Idaho — At 17 years old, a typical high schooler is sorting through the dilemma of what to wear to prom. Pangaea Finn likely has her attention turned toward what to pack for Cambridge.
"So, I have been accepted into the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard," Finn said. "There are a lot of opportunities there that I'd always hope to be able to explore. But some of them weren't available at Boise State."
KTVB first reported Finn's enrollment at BSU in 2019 when she was 14, already one year into her undergrad experience. This month, Finn has ended that chapter of her life with two bachelor’s degrees: one in piano performance, a second in math and science.
"So, it's pretty complicated," Finn said. "I was doing three majors while I was at Boise State."
Finn's a gifted student - she's part of a larger community of young people who excel academically far beyond their peers. The signs started early; by preschool, she was reading Charlotte's Webb to decompress after deconstructing a repeatable winning strategy for 'Hi Ho! Cherry-O.'
Essentially, she was 4-year-old version of a card counter at the blackjack table.
"[It's] a game that is incredibly easy to rig and beat wholesale, I would be always winning these games, and I wouldn't end up getting along with the other kids," Finn said. "That was kind of a running theme, either a school wouldn't know how to educate me, or they would be very confident that the way to educate me was to just put me in the same place as the other kids who are my age and see what happened."
At Harvard, Finn is chasing a PhD in physics. She's unsure what she wants to do for a living, but knows she wants to be a voice for others who have gone through similar struggles as a gifted student.
"Mostly, it's just the systemic ageism that's inherent in the education system. A lot of gifted kids who are accelerated, and some who aren't, have had to fight the system every step of the way to get where they are," Finn said. "Social aspects get talked about a lot in education of gifted students, especially the kind of people who try to stop these students from accelerating are always very, very concerned about what it will do to their social life. I did not really have that problem. I feel like a lot of that problem is pretty fabricated."
When Finn started at BSU at 13 years old, she wasn’t old enough to legally work in the state of Idaho. That meant her research efforts were not compensated for a year until she turned 14; Finn had to pursue her work as a volunteer.
Other gifted students are enrolled at BSU, according to Finn. The university is gaining a reputation in the community for being inclusive to these students; Finn suspects more will come to Boise in response.
"I was here at on campus when I found out about Harvard. A professor called me and congratulated me for getting it - a professor from Harvard who was so excited to see me there, that he had taken the time to reach out," Finn said. "That was when I really saw that Harvard was going to give me the same welcoming environment that I've had at Boise State. And that - in large part - is actually what drew me there."
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