Natasha Verma wants to do the unthinkable. She is at once sincere and fiery when she declares that she loves a challenge, and wants to achieve an amazing life. And she will probably do just that.
At only 17 years old, Verma is the youngest graduate in this year's commencement from the University of Texas — and one of the youngest graduates ever in the university's history.
She graduated from high school in Victoria, Texas at the age of 15, and already had two years of college credit under her belt. Verma took her first college class at age 11 and split her high school days in half, taking college courses in the morning and high school classes in the afternoon. She entered UT with an Associates Degree in Science.
"Learning didn’t end when I graduated, I am learning every single day, for the rest of my life."
"One’s thirst for knowledge is incredible," Verma says. "I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn and educate yourself to remain conscious in this world." She credits her parents with opening her eyes to new places, concepts and people since the day she was born. "They will forever be my mentors and first teachers. I am blessed to have supportive parents who backed my schooling and provided me with an opportunity to learn."
On May 19, Verma graduated from UT with not just one, but two degrees, in broadcast journalism and pre-med biology. She admits to having a mix of emotions now that she's graduated: pride in her accomplishments, excitement in closing this chapter of her life and beginning the next, and relief. "I can say goodbye to those final exams and Google Docs and hello to UT football games and being an official Longhorn for life with my friends."
Her plans now are to enter Columbia University in New York, where she will pursue a Master's Degree in broadcast journalism and begin building her television career. Her experience in UT seems to have prepared her well; during her freshman year, Verma created UT's morning news talk show, Good Morning Texas. Over the span of three years, she served as the show's Executive Producer, turning it into an award-winning program.
She says that running the television show was challenging, but rewarding. "After putting in 1000+ hours of hard work into running the show, I learned what dedication was. After teaching my reporters how to edit, film and produce stories, I learned what patience is. In the end, I experienced great memories — interviewing Will Ferrell, covering the red carpet for SXSW and getting invited to the Grammy Awards." The experience also allowed her to learn what working in a real newsroom was like, and her biology degree will enable her to report on science-related fields.
"Learning didn’t end when I graduated," Verma adds. "I am learning every single day, for the rest of my life."
Her ultimate goal is to travel around the globe and tell stories about the issues impacting us: economics, politics, science, music, art and culture. "I want people to become aware of the world around them before appreciating what’s happening in their backyard. Journalists have the invaluable power to move masses. I want to show and tell the truth."
She admits that she will miss Austin, a place where she found there was something new to do every day. She'll miss Barton Springs, Zilker Park, and eating at the trailer parks on South Congress. But this young woman has big plans, and clearly there is an amazing future waiting for her.
"I am young, free and ready to travel the world, film documentaries and tell stories," Verma says. "I get chills just talking about this. It’s going to be quite the journey."