Daniella Fernandes will be the youngest student in Flagler County to start dual enrollment classes.
“As a mom, you’re nervous, but she had goals, and who am I to stand in the way of those goals?”
Palm Coast resident Daniella Fernandes will be starting college before she even becomes a teenager. The young girl with big dreams is beginning dual enrollment classes at Daytona State College in the fall and aspires to finish medical school by age 22 and ultimately become a psychiatrist.
After finishing sixth and seventh grades simultaneously through Bunnell Elementary School and Florida Virtual School, she is ready to begin the Introduction to Composition class and the mandatory Managing Your Success class at the DSC Palm Coast campus in August.
Daniella said she just didn’t feel challenged enough in her gifted classes.
“A lot of times people push you down, like, ‘You can’t do that; you’re young,’ so if you are able to prove them wrong in a sense, then why not?” Daniella said.
Last year, the state of Florida changed the dual enrollment grade limit to allow students in sixth through 12th grades, as opposed to just ninth through 12th, to be able to dual enroll. With that change, Daniella will be the youngest student in Flagler County to dual enroll, according to Flagler County Public Schools Communication Information Specialist Jason Wheeler.
“[I’m] proud that I can lead the way for other people who want to follow in my footsteps — maybe break the mold,” Daniella said. “I just like being different. I like proving to people that the traditional way doesn’t always have to be the way.”
Daniella looks up to the positive attitude her FLVS seventh-grade science teacher Michelle Fowler embodies.
“I’m blown away, but I know how awesome she is, so I have no doubt that no matter what she tries, she’s going to be successful at it,” Fowler said.
Originally, Daniella’s mother, Anne Fernandes, was worried about her daughter’s academic ambition because she didn’t want her to be overwhelmed or lose out on childhood fun. But she now applauds her daughter’s ability to balance social and school life.
“As a mom, you’re nervous, but she had goals, and who am I to stand in the way of those goals?” Anne said. “I just need to support them and make sure that it’s being done in a healthy way.”
In addition to academic success, Daniella is actively involved in the local Future Problem Solving and Community Problem Solving organizations. Her CmPS team created a project called HOMES, Helping Others Meet Essential Standards, to provide food and donations for the local homeless population. Daniella said her everyday goal is simply to help people and make them smile.
While Daniella’s educational journey has been advanced for her age, Anne said her daughter still lives a normal pre-teenager life.
“She just got braces last week. She goes to the movies with her friends. She’s just a 12-year-old kid,” Anne said.