Sydney Wilson mastered algebra in the first grade. By the time she was 12, she was studying advanced placement biology and world history.
This fall, Sydney, who just turned 14 earlier this month, will start her freshman year at Spelman College as the youngest student on campus. She is also one of the youngest — if not the youngest — student in the college’s history.
The teenager and her family live in Stonecrest. Growing up in south DeKalb County, Sydney said she rarely watched TV with the exception of animal documentaries. She loved being outdoors — digging in the dirt, searching for bugs and frogs, pretending to make food out of leaves. She went to a Montessori school until she was about 6 years old. She and her family credit that schooling with putting her on a pathway to success.
“A Montessori gives you what you are ready for, and she just kept going,” said Sydney’s father, Byron Wilson. Wilson is the founder of Wilson Academy, a private school in Lithonia.
Sydney said she has always had a good work ethic and enjoys being challenged academically. She also loves to cook and plays soccer at a competitive level. Still, she said, she’s just a kid.
“People might think I am separate from the rest of people my age, but there are some facets of my life when I am still just a kid,” she said. “I still like to play LEGOs, and I think it’s cool to still play with LEGOs.”
In the past, she sometimes struggled to fit in with other kids — those her age, as well as her classmates who were as much as seven years older. But she’s come to peace with challenging social dynamics.
“I have been in the middle and torn between two worlds,” she said. “I could be in a classroom and not be invited to parties and it did use to affect me. But not everyone is willing to accept me, and I had to learn sometimes people are not going to be as openhearted, and that’s OK.”
Over time, she’s developed close friendships and has two best friends — both of whom are girls graduating from high school.
And now, the straight-A student, who was still 13 when she received her acceptance letter from Spelman, looks forward to going to the Atlanta college, where she already feels welcome.
Spelman College is No. 51 on the list of the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, tying with Agnes Scott, Dickinson and Rhodes colleges, as well as Furman University, according to the 2019 U.S. News & World Report’s list of college rankings. Spelman was also listed as No. 1 among Historically Black Colleges and Universities for the 12th year in a row and was included on the list of the nation’s most innovative liberal arts colleges.
“I am so excited to be in the sisterhood,” said Sydney. “So many women have reached out to me and have been very nice and supportive, and I am so excited to see what my life will be at Spelman.”