Standing about 5 feet tall, Ronald “Ronnie” Littman, 14, has blondish-brown hair that reaches down to his eyebrows. He enjoys Dungeons and Dragons, playing sports and acting on stage.
Like many 14-year-olds, Ronnie also goes to school during the week.
But Ronnie, who was able to read books by the age of 3, does not attend middle or high school. The Williamsburg resident is in community college, set to receive his associate’s degree in May.
And in August, before he is even able to start driver’s ed, he will start his studies at William & Mary.
“It took what felt like thousands of hours of talk and research,” said father Dominick Littman of the choice to send his son to college. “Ultimately, Ronnie needed it. He wasn’t being challenged.”
To help him with his tuition, Ronnie and his parents recently found out he was a semifinalist for a scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
The scholarship is for up to $40,000 each year for three years, his mother, Denise Littman said. He will find out if he received the scholarship in April.
From a young age, Ronnie knew he was different from other children.
“It’s been something that’s been there all my life,” Ronnie said.
In preschool, Ronnie’s teacher would ask him to read aloud to his classmates. He was speaking in full and coherent sentences as a toddler.
Ronnie was tested at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, which is also where the family found out about about the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship.
Ronnie jumped from kindergarten to first grade half way through his first year of schooling and left Walsingham Academy after he finished sixth grade.
Dominick and Denise said they have had to forge their own path when it comes to Ronnie’s education, because there are very few people like him.
“We’ve always just done what we need to do,” Dominick said. “Whatever he needs.”
Douglas, Ronnie’s 11-year-old brother, is also above average. He is homeschooled and already doing schoolwork at a high school level.
Denise also has a doctorate degree in education.
On to college
Ronnie passed the college entrance exam around age 10.
In January 2017, he began taking college courses at Rappahannock Community College Glenns Campus in Gloucester. His parents drive him to and from classes, since Ronnie does not have his driver’s license.
Ronnie said his age is an often-approached subject with his classmates and professors, but he usually waits for people to ask about it first.
“Some people are confused, and other people think I’m short,” he said. “Just a very short college student.”
Ronnie remains a typical 14-year-old in another way: He sometimes procrastinates on his homework.
His procrastination is often rooted in Ronnie’s insatiable curiosity: Ronnie’s reading can sometimes lead him from his homework to completely unrelated — but still interesting — topics.
“The biggest thing is keeping Ronnie on track,” Dominick said. The parents typically don’t assist Ronnie with homework, because they don’t need to.
Ronnie has maintained a 4.0 GPA at Rappahannock Community College.
Ronnie was accepted into William & Mary through its guaranteed admission program, which allows community college students with certain associate’s degrees to transfer to William & Mary if they meet particular qualifications.
While Ronnie is headed to a four-year college, he hasn’t chosen a particular program or course of study. Still, he knows he wants to be in a field that allows him to be creative and help people.
“I don’t know what I want to major in yet,” Ronnie said. “I’m still pretty young. I have a lot I like to do.”
And for his parents, that’s okay.
They’re letting Ronnie decide his degree and career path at his own pace. After all, they don’t believe a child should have to decide what they want to do for the rest of their life at 14.
Still, the idea that Ronnie could have his master’s or doctorate degree before he is able to vote excites the family.
“It seems like we’ve been blazing our own trail,” Denise said.