15-year-old Khaya Njumbe set to make history as youngest college graduate in Indiana

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 8, 2024 8:52 AM EDT
Khaya Njumbe. Photo credit: Indiana University Northwest

At only 15 years old, Khaya Njumbe is set to make history as the youngest-known college graduate in Indiana. He has taught himself how to speak Chinese, play the piano, and the periodic table, and will soon graduate from Indiana University Northwest with a bachelor’s degree in general studies. The wunderkind has already earned three associate degrees in biology, liberal arts, and general studies from Ivy Tech.

“I guess a lot of people would think that I’m surprised, didn’t think I was going to be able to do this. It’s pretty normal for me now because as far back as I can remember, that’s all I’ve known,” Njumbe said about his historic education journey.

Njumbe’s noticed his exceptional abilities at a young age. He was reciting words flashing on the screen from the Your Child Can Read! DVDs at just 13 months old. His parents used flashcards, and different images, and even created their flashcards to test him and he was still able to recite the words. “Isn’t it funny, Mommy, that ‘exit’ has an ‘X’? You would think it’s supposed to be a ‘Z.’,” Njumbe told his mother at two years old.

For a few years, Njumbe was homeschooled by his mother. He consequently engaged with advanced learning materials and was able to blaze through entire grade levels in a few months. It was challenging to find the right fit when Njumbe was ready for school. He was either too advanced or too young to be in a class and teachers struggled to figure out what grade he belonged in. He moved from school to school because he was not used to structure and had already taught himself most subjects.

“I thought it was fun. I would just watch YouTube videos and then YouTube would recommend more educational content and I would just keep clicking to the next video, from video to video. And I would just remember it,” Njumbe explained how learning came easily to him.

His first school setting was a reading program at IU Northwest which ignited his interest in attending the university. During the search for the appropriate institution, Njumbe ended up in an all-Chinese school where he taught himself the language. He eventually enrolled in a charter school that challenged his abilities and allowed him to gain new knowledge. Within a year, he jumped several grade levels and began taking classes at Ivy Tech Community College.

When he was 12 Njumbe began studying at IU Northwest via online and in-person classes. Being the youngest on campus came with its fair share of challenges. Njumbe was accused of having a fake school ID and mistook it for a professor’s grandson while taking notes in a class. The first generation of his family born in the U.S. and the first to graduate college, his graduation is set to be a history-making moment.

Njumbe intends to find a master’s program as he prepares for medical school. His lifelong goal is to work in biomedical engineering and if all goes to plan, he will have finished medical school by the time he’s 22 years old.

“Right now I’m looking for graduate schools because I can’t enroll in medical school due to labor laws and all that since I’m still under 18,” Njumbe said of his current plans.