Most students graduate college in their early 20s, but Adrian Gilliam was ready a little earlier.

Gilliam graduated from UCF this spring at 17 years old with a computer software job awaiting him at Optima Healthcare Solutions.

"Living in Orlando influenced my decision to attend UCF. UCF has a really good engineering program, especially for computer science," Adrian said. "I never was really trying to be the youngest graduate. But being such a young graduate is something I'm proud of. I'm just a normal [alumnus]."

Adrian is one of UCF's youngest graduates.

The university's youngest graduate was a 16-year-old in 1998, according to a press release.

Michael Gilliam, Adrian's father and UCF alumnus, said he was beaming ear to ear when he watched his son walk across the stage at graduation.

"I don't think age had anything to do with [him] maintaining good grades and involvement. He just set his priorities and spent a lot of time making sure he had acceptable grades and high enough grades to get into graduate school if he decided to do that. I think it was just a matter of him setting his priorities," Michael said.

At the age of 4, Adrian started home schooling through Florida Virtual School. As he continued to learn online, taking honors and advanced placement courses, he was also learning martial arts and Mandarin, which he is now fluent in.

At 13 years old, Adrian was enrolled at UCF, and received a bachelor of science degree in computer science at 17 years old.

"I think from the beginning, a lot of what encouraged me to take this route was my parents," he said. "As I started progressing, it definitely became more self-motivated. If I hadn't of taken the route I did, I would be going into my senior year [of high school]."

His father accredits his patient and helpful personality to his involvement with martial arts.

In 2007, Adrian won his first of several national-level tournaments at the U.S. Open Karate Championships, according to the release. At 10, he earned his black belt.

"Growing up, people always said, 'Don't you miss normal school, or wish you went to normal school?' But you can't miss something you never had. I was very happy with the experience and opportunities I had. I felt like I was still able to get social interaction through things like martial arts while still being able to excel academically," Adrian said.

Adrian jokes about his biggest struggle at UCF being that he was not able to sign up for the Recreation and Wellness Center because he was younger than 18.

During his time on campus, he served as president and vice president of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, senator for the College of Engineering and Computer Science in the Student Government Association and an undergraduate teaching assistant for an introduction to programming course.

Although Adrian is currently taking a break from school, his long-term goal is to continue his education and eventually become a professor.


Bridgette Norris is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @blogginbridge email her at

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