UP summa cum laude graduate Mikaela Fudolig proved that young gifted children like her can succeed in a harsh and competitive university if given this one condition—a life spared from public and media scrutiny.

Mikaela, who started her B.S. Physics degree at 11, led the graduates of the country’s premier state university after garnering a remarkable 1.099 general weighed average. She told reporters that more than her academic achievements, she was proud that the Early College Placement Program (ECPP) designed for gifted children like her succeeded.

Unlike other gifted children who were featured early on television shows and commercials, Mikaela was intentionally shielded from the public, as part of ECPP. Although it was impossible to do this entirely, this part of the contract, if you may call it, proved to be effective in the case of Mikaela.

Another child genius, Shaira Luna, famous for her infant-formula commercial where she explains the mechanics of the human heart also, attended college at De La Salle University at a young age—13 years old. However, she shifted from her pre-med course, and eventually quit school. She now works as a freelance photographer.

It would be unfair to compare the two, but we could not help but wonder what made the difference between the two cases.. Perhaps pressured by a society that publicly called her a genius, Luna was not able to graduate in college despite her high IQ. Of course, she is still young to finish her college education. Maybe she would have been elsewhere today, enjoying the success every child genius deserves, had she been removed from the public spotlight and grown at her own pace, at her own time.

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As the batch valedictorian, the 16-year-old Mikaela delivered an inspiring valedictory speech dedicated to fellow Filipinos graduates.

“Take not the road less traveled. Rather, make new roads, blaze new trails, find new routes to your dreams,” she said.

Mikee was right in saying that the real world outside college is “one that’s full of compromises, where success is determined more by the ability to belong than by the ability to think.” While young Filipinos today choose to take the easy way, where a high paying job means getting into something outside your field of specialization, or even flying out of the country, Mikaela believes otherwise.

More than courage, she said it takes bravery to go against popular wisdom and expectations of family and friends. It will take genuine bravery to gamble one’s future by staying in the country and try to make a prosperous life here. Mikaela plans to teach at the UP National Institute of Physics, where she graduated.

“One should not only be strong in convictions, for strength is not enough. Instead, defy the pressure to lead a comfortable, but middling life.”

Hear, hear!.

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