QUINCY -- Matthew Farlow was comfortable in the crowd of 343 students getting associate degrees Friday night at John Wood Community College.
Although teachers and fellow students never made it an issue, Farlow did stand out in some ways. He is 16 years old and has been taking JWCC classes for the past two years after graduating from high school at age 14.
"I was home-schooled starting in the sixth grade," Farlow said.
Taught by his parents, Farlow had been in a more traditional school setting up through the fifth grade. He excelled in school and felt the need for greater challenges. Farlow said he approached JWCC classes with that same philosophy.
"I've always tried to push myself as hard as possible," Farlow said. "The more time you put into things, the more you get out of them."
Farlow will enter Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., next year as a junior. He'll be pursuing a degree in biochemistry with a career goal in either research or medical work.
His father, Jeremy Farlow, said Matthew has consistently focused on "putting in the effort" in classes. One of the JWCC classes involved medical terminology that Jeremy Farlow said he found difficult to answer but his son was "nailing" the answers as he prepared for finals.
"It is awesome that at John Wood they lock in his classes so when he transfers he'll get credit without the new school looking at whether some of the classes were adequate," Jeremy Farlow said.
John Wood also was a convenient school to attend. The Farlows live near JWCC's 48th and Harrison campus, and Matthew walked to classes at a time when he didn't have a driver's license.
Not only is Matthew moving on to college at a younger age than most people, he has won a scholarship as a blue chip eSports player.
"He was being highly recruited for eSports. Schools from all over the country were bombarding us with scholarship offers. Culver was the best fit for him," Jeremy Farlow said.
This year Matthew is ranked 345th out of about 40 million players tracked by GrandMaster in Overwatch.
If graduating at 16 and getting a scholarship sounds intimidating, "It's just his normal," Jeremy Farlow said.
Matthew had good things to say about John Wood's online classes and in-class experiences. He felt welcomed in a school that has lots of nontraditional students. It also was affordable.
"It's a great way to jump start my education without much debt," Matthew Farlow said.