Already in her young life, Roshan “Rosie” Khan was ranked first in her class at Harmony Science Academy-Pflugerville, served as student council president, testified before the Texas State House Education Committee about public charter schools, and is now a freshman at the University of Texas-Austin, where she has a quadruple major.
And she accomplished all of that before she got her driver's license this week.
That Khan, 16, has achieved so much at such a young age is hardly a surprise to her teachers such as Jeremy Lippart, who served as her 12th grade AP Micro/Macroeconomics and AP Comparative Government teacher.
“Rosie is a genius,” said Lippart, who also worked with Khan for student council and SLS Mock Government. “She’s incredibly intelligent. The other thing, in addition to her being incredibly intelligent, is that her work ethic is off the charts. She’s one of those kids who won’t settle for anything less than her best effort, even when she could give 75 percent and still out-perform everybody else. That’s the main thing every teacher always noticed about her – that she could have coasted but obviously didn’t.”
While it could be argued that a student with Khan’s intelligence and drive could have succeeded in any school environment, Khan herself testified to state House members last month that it was the opportunities and instructors afforded to her at HSA-Pflugerville that got her to where she is today.
“I skipped second and fourth grade, then went to Harmony Science Academy Pflugerville for middle and high school,” she testified to the committee. “Spending ten years in the system, I found school spirit that was less like a battleground and more like home, a diverse body of students and faculty, engaging classes and extracurriculars, and passionate, genuine, friendly teachers. I had fun projects during school, and after hours, clubs like MathCounts, Robotics, Science Olympiad, Geography Bee, and much more.”
Khan said her parents decided to move her and her older brother Abraham into Harmony because both of them were too advanced for their grades in their ISD school. Khan said she was allowed to sit in first grade classes while still in kindergarten, but her parents realized that doing so was only a temporary fix.
While Harmony’s program also struggled to keep up with Khan – she skipped both the second and fourth grades – the school was able to work with her to accommodate her accelerated learning pace.
“They had more staff available, and they would come around do different sorts of activities with us,” she said. “They allowed us to read more advanced books. They had systems in place to help out kids who were bored with what the rest of the class was learning.”
The teachers were flexible enough to allow Khan to go through the entire math workbook at her own pace while classmates were tasked with a specific assignment.
Khan’s positive experiences at HSA-Pflugerville extended beyond the classroom, she said. In addition to student government, she worked as a tutor in math and computer science, and played piano.
Lippart noted that Khan became very involved in making her community a better place. Among the charities she has helped with are the American Cancer Society, Keep Austin Beautiful and a food donation program organized from the school’s cafeteria.
Khan also is very active in political issues. She served as an aide in the Senate Page Program for Sen. Kirk Watson, and she organized the peaceful student demonstration on school gun violence, inviting U.S. House of Representatives candidate Rick Kennedy as a guest speaker.
Khan, who is majoring in Plan II Honors, Economics, Government, and International Relations in the UT-Austin Honors Program, said she hopes to work in politics after college. One of the things that sparked her interest in politics was a visit to the Capitol and other activities as part of the SLS Mock Government Club.
“That was another immersive way to prepare us for things,” she said.
While other students might find it intimidating to be entering college at 16, Lippart said Khan has pretty much always been two years younger than her classmates at Harmony, and it never held her back in terms of class participation.
“It was really almost intimidating for the other kids, because she was so much younger,” he said.
Khan said she hopes her testimony to the committee will make a difference in future legislation, noting that public charter students receive less overall funding than their ISD peers and that many groups would like to limit school choice by putting moratoriums on opening new charter campuses.
“If I had been restricted to my district ISD, I would not be who I am now,” she testified. “Had I gone to a private school I believe I would not have felt as welcome among more privileged demographics, if my family could afford that, which we cannot.”
If Lippart has his way, Khan will one day be sitting among the decision makers in the Capitol and not in front of them.
“Selfishly, I’d like for her to run for office – and win!” he said with a chuckle.
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