14-year-old adjusting to college

Published 1:50 am Saturday, October 27, 2018

At the age of 14, Morgan Pridgen is exploring a new setting in education as he adjusts to a classroom of college students at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College in Andalusia during his second semester.

The son of Michael and Rachel Pridgen of Opp, Morgan’s first experience in a classroom setting is LBWCC’s chemistry course.

“Home schooling was always in the back of our head as an option when he was diagnosed with autism,” Rachel Pridgen said. “He had therapists in a lot of different places and it just fit better to teach him at home. Being able to challenge him academically while working on social skills in therapy was the best option.”

Morgan’s first spoken words came as he brought a book to his parents and started reading to them, she said.

“We’ve always been open with Morgan about autism, explaining that his brain is wired differently and some things would be easy for him and some things would be harder. He’s advanced in math and struggled with a speech class. It’s hard for him to talk about himself.”

Mrs. Pridgen said a family rule is when a child completes high school geometry, he can start taking the ACT, a standardized test used for college admissions. The ACT tests knowledge and skills in English, math, reading, science and writing with the highest possible overall score of 36.

Morgan took the ACT at LBWCC at the age of 13 and scored 29.

“We knew he could get into most colleges with that score, so he enrolled in an online microcomputer application class with LBW. We wanted to make sure he could handle the pacing, scheduling, and contact with professors. He passed the class with an ‘A.’”

He then took three LBWCC classes and one at Troy University over the summer and made ‘A’s’ in those classes, she said.

“This fall, we said there’s no reason not to do all classes at college.”

He’s currently enrolled in 16 credit hours, half the classes at LBWCC and half at Troy University. As a dual enrollment student, he is earning college credits and high school credits at the same time.

Morgan said his interest is in computer programming, with Python his favorite programming language so far. He also uses C++, Java, and Java Script, he said.

While most people review computer code line by line, processing each line as they progress to the end, Morgan scans it, his mom said.

On his laptop computer, he is currently building a game, he said.

“His interest in computers will probably lead to a career in cyber security, virtual reality, or artificial intelligence,” Mrs. Pridgen said.

Morgan continues developing social skills while at LBWCC. Although the chemistry class is the first time he’s interacted with other students in a classroom setting, he is obviously making an impact with them. While sitting in the student center between classes, a classmate approaches for confirmation of quiz and exam dates, then asks for a study time with Morgan.

Current projections are for Morgan to complete a high school credential and earn an associate in science degree in December 2019, then graduate with a bachelor’s degree at the age of 16.