Central Park's Skyler Vargas is way ahead of the curve as she graduates college at 18.
At 16, Central Park’s Skyler Vargas hesitated when deciding whether she should leave Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School to finish her high school career at the State College of Florida Collegiate School.
It seemed her entire life was at Cardinal Mooney — her friends, cheer squad and track teammates.
“I loved my time at Mooney, but I felt free college was hard to pass up,” Vargas said. “I kind of made up for it on the outside because all my friends are still my friends.”
She took up competitive cheerleading and ran on her own. She continued with a competitive swim team and competed in dance.
Vargas had been on track to graduate from high school at 16 years old because she had skipped fifth grade.
Since then she’s been collecting degrees.
Vargas received her associates degree at 16 and now has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Florida Gulf Coast University at 18 years old.
Vargas said graduating at 18 shows her she can do anything she puts her mind to academically, or in general.
She will participate in her Florida Gulf Coast grad walk, a condensed version of a graduation ceremony, May 7.
“I’ll finally be done with my undergrad,” Vargas said. “I’m excited about that. Hopefully my next step after that is law school.”
Vargas is waiting to hear whether she’s been accepted to Stetson University College of Law. She hopes to go into business law or fashion law.
Although Vargas grew up wanting to be a doctor, her first criminal justice course at Florida Gulf Coast University made her change her mind.
Vargas said the professor’s passion for the course and ability to make learning easy while keeping students engaged inspired Vargas to pursue a degree in criminal justice.
Graduating at 18, if Vargas decided to go into the workforce in criminal justice, she said her age would cause some issues.
“It’s hard to find many job opportunities in the criminal justice field that are willing to hire somebody that’s 18 because usually it says, ‘No experience necessary but must be 21 years old or older,’” Vargas said. “That’s the only struggle with graduating this early.”
Brenda Freytes, Vargas’ mother, said knowing her daughter was graduating early was emotional.
“I couldn’t believe she had accomplished so much in so little time,” Freytes said. “She was always advanced. If she was in fifth grade, she was already looking to see what the assignments for sixth grade were.”
Vargas and her family moved to Florida from New Jersey when she was in third grade. Her parents had her tested and discovered she was gifted.
While on the fast track to graduation, Robert Vargas, Vargas’ father, said they never had concerns about their daughter’s acceleration through school. He said she always was mature for her age and motivated.
“We’re incredibly proud,” Freytes said. “The other day I was sitting out here and thinking 'I can’t believe my baby is graduating' and going, God willing, to law school. I know she can handle it. She’s a bright cookie.”
Vargas spent her freshman and sophomore year of high school attending Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School. She transferred to the State College of Florida when she turned 15 years old and was taking all college courses and one high school course.
She was able to participate in all high school activities, including homecoming, sports and junior prom.
Much like the rest of the Class of 2020, many traditional aspects of a senior year of high school were ripped away from Vargas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She didn’t have a senior prom or more importantly to her, a graduation ceremony.
“(Not having a graduation ceremony) was disappointing personally because I was able to see all my friends from Cardinal Mooney and Lakewood Ranch High School graduate, and I got a box,” Vargas said.
Although she was in class with students older than her, Vargas said the age difference never bothered her.
“I was always super young for my grade, no matter whether that was in New Jersey or here,” Vargas said. “I never saw an age difference. All my friends are older than me. I guess it was different that my friends could then drive me around a lot sooner than I could drive. That was about the only difference I saw.”
All of her courses in her first year of college were online, so Vargas decided to live at home while taking classes. She decided to continue with online classes in her final year of college.
Although not on campus, Vargas said she feels she didn’t miss out on the college experience.
“A lot of my friends actually stayed in the area, so to me, I didn’t miss out on anything because all my friends were here,” Vargas said. “We kind of made our own college experience here. We would go to the beach or to the pools at each other’s houses. We just made it overall super fun.”
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