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'Little Darwin' Sets the Bar High for Herself — Including Studying for the Bar

At 18, Turner Scholar Jessica Tucker is one of the youngest students to graduate from UC with a bachelor’s degree since Darwin T. Turner himself.

Date: 12/7/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Ashley Kempher
Jessica Tucker feels driven to succeed.
Jessica Tucker feels driven to succeed.

Like the man whose name is on the scholarship that she earned, Jessica Tucker is driven: driven by a desire to achieve great things and to set an example for others to follow. (She is also following another example — her father graduated from high school early, graduating from Aiken at the age of 17.)

Jessica will be walking in the All-University Autumn Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 13, as one of the youngest baccalaureate graduates from the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services. This isn’t the first time she’s graduated young. Jessica had just turned 16 when she graduated from Cincinnati’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA).

“Initially I specialized in visual arts, creative writing and vocal music,” she explains, but she decided to graduate with a focus in vocal music alone.

Jessica says that she was so “caught up” in what she had to do to graduate from SCPA that she only applied to three colleges. Her counselor told her about the Darwin T. Turner Scholars program at UC and suggested that she apply for it.

Jessica's friends call her Little Darwin after Darwin T. Turner.

“I didn’t fully understand what I was given at first,” she admits, then smiles: “Now they call me ‘Little Darwin.’”

Tall and striking — and looking way too dignified to be only 18 —Jessica doesn’t seem like a “Little” anything. She graduates from the UC this December with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice. But that doesn’t mean she’s leaving music behind.

“I’m trying to get into law schools now and I’m working on a demo,” she says. “I won’t be happy if I don’t have my music. It just doesn’t have to be now.”

Jessica plans to get a law degree, preferably a JD/PhD or JD/MBA combination, then to “really go after the music,” she says, “because that’s what I really need.”

“There was only one time in my life where I was too sick to sing,” she adds. “It was so depressing.”

So exactly how does one graduate in just two years with a full bachelor’s degree? It’s not recommended. Jessica says that she studied straight through summers, taking 21 to 27 credit hours every quarter.

“I had to call the dean every quarter to take the maximum-hours cap off,” she says.

So why the hurry?

“I’ve been in a position where I’ve been one of the few minority students where people have said we weren’t good enough,” she says fiercely. “I want to show that I’m better than good enough. I want to help other minority students know that they can do better. If I can inspire them, then I should.”

Jessica's star is definitely on the rise.

Jessica mentors young students in her spare time. “They inspire me to be better than mediocre,” she says.

Whether it’s on a recording label or on court TV someday, it’s clear that we have not heard the last of Jessica Tucker. And there is no risk that she will ever be mediocre.

Want to learn more about the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program?

Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program

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Want to read about other Turner Scholars?

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