By Don Onyeokeziri, Staff Writer

Younger than most seniors in high school, Hamza Arshad is a sophomore at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock majoring in pre-med. He originally planned to graduate from Central in 2010, but his parents encouraged him to graduate in 2009. Though he went to Central for only three years, he accomplished a lot and enjoyed it.

“Central prepared me for college really well; the nametag of Central holds a lot of power. The only place I didn’t get in was Wash U and I got wait-listed,” said Hamza, who was accepted by the University of Central Arkansas, UALR, Duke, Vanderbilt, Hendrix and Fayetteville.

His sister, Mahreen Arshad, another Central alumna, was graduating from college the same time he was graduating from high school and since she was heading to medical school, his parents would not be able to pay for his college education.

So, Hamza assessed his situations.

“Scholarships were really low, and my parents make money so I had no financial aid. I wanted to go Duke but that’s $40,000 a year, so I limited myself to Arkansas,” he said.

He received an Honors College scholarship at UCA, the Donaghey Scholarship at UALR, the Chancellor’s and Fellowship at Fayetteville, as well as the Governor’s Distinguished, which applied to all Arkansas schools.

He ultimately chose the Donaghey Scholars program at UALR.

“UALR offered me the best financial package. It was really nice because my older sister went through the same program, and she’s now at UAMS for med school,” he said.

Taking eight AP classes his final year, Hamza was physically tired inside and out of class. Hamza says that there was much more pressure in high school compared to college.

“Because I want to be a cardiovascular surgeon, I saw it as a way to cut back on a year of my life,” he said.

He plans to spend three years at UALR, despite the fact that he is getting paid to attend.

There were a few drawbacks to graduating early. The biggest problem he found from it was that he got the PSAT score to become a National Merit Semifinalist, but he never received that honor.

The rewards far outweigh the consequences. Along with saving time, UALR is giving him a generous stipend.

“I eat out every day now; it beats eating ramen and ketchup,” he said as he flashed the keys to his brand new ’09 Lexus. “I’m living the high life now; I’m a high roller.”

He didn’t want to specify exactly how much he is making, but did say that he gets well over $10,000 a year.

For medical school, he plans to either attend Washington University in St. Louis or Johns Hopkins University. Since his parents didn’t have to pay for him to get his bachelor’s, he says paying for medical school will not be as painful as it usually is.

His high school may have been cut short, but while he was here, he met teachers he’ll never forget. He accredited his AP Biology teacher, Annice Steadman and AP Economics teacher, George West as teachers who left a lasting impression on him and made him who he is today.

“Hamza was always willing to go beyond what was asked in class,” Steadman said. “He is a truly gifted science student.”

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