Kairan Quazi graduates this month, but not from middle school, unlike hundreds of other 14-year-olds. The youngest graduate in Santa Clara University’s history will receive his bachelor’s degree before moving on to SpaceX to work as a software developer.
“I’m really excited for this new chapter of my life,” said Kairan, who will be moving from Pleasanton to Washington state with his mom, Jullia, in July to join SpaceX’s Starlink team.
From the beginning, it was clear that Kairan, pronounced Ky-ren, was not your typical youngster.
Soon after her son was born, Jullia noticed that Kairan had a “intense” temperament. For instance, if she was reading to him and stopped, Kairan would have a tantrum that could only be calmed by listening to NPR. His physicians saw that he was speaking in complete phrases by the time he was 2 years old and noted that his IQ and emotional maturity were quite high.
They advised him to enroll in preschool right away. However, the teacher informed his parents that there had been a problem on his first day, which occurred to be the same day that the Arab Spring rebellion began to sweep throughout the world.
“He got up and declared that school was boring. And then, he got all of his friends in the classroom to start marching, chanting: Free Egypt, democracy now,” said Jullia. “He was 2. We were dumbfounded.”
Since then, Kairan has received the designation of being “profoundly gifted,” with an IQ that is higher than the 99.9th percentile for the general population. While he did make the entire kindergarten class cry when he informed them at recess that Bashar al-Assad of Syria was using chemical weapons, Kairan is also highly socially adept, according to his mother, unlike many kids with similar intellect levels.
His age was five.
“I think by third grade, it became painfully obvious to my teachers, parents and pediatrician that mainstream education wasn’t a great fit for my exponential learning abilities,” Kairan said in an interview on Tuesday.
The pediatrician informed Kairan’s parents that he needed to be on a more expedited route by the time he turned 10 years old. Kairan’s father, Mustahid, and Jullia reportedly wept for three days while thinking how they could persuade a university that their third-grader was capable of attending their classes.
The Quazis managed to overcome the difficulties, nevertheless. At age 10, Kairan received an internship at Intel Labs as an AI research co-op fellow before beginning classes at Las Positas, a community college in Livermore, later that year. He transferred to Santa Clara University at the age of 11, where he concentrated on engineering and computer science.
At the age of 14, Kairan is now reflecting on his time in college, which he describes as the happiest years of his life. On June 17, he will graduate together with roughly 1,600 other pupils.
Kairan participated in the Association for Computer Machinery while attending Santa Clara and held the position of senior senator in the Associated Student Government. He remarked matter-of-factly that the 14-year-old was hired to tutor pupils and quickly rose to the top of the team in terms of demand.
Associate professor of computer science and engineering and Kairan’s academic advisor Ahmed Amer stated Kairan was a “delight to teach” since he was always truly prepared to go into the course material and pose intelligent questions.
“When I first started (at Santa Clara University), people were really intrigued,” he said. “But after a few days, I think the novelty wore off…and I think a lot of them realized that I’m a pretty normal person.”
One of those students was Jordan Randleman, a 23-year-old master’s student specializing in computer science and engineering.
“At first, I thought: Wow, this dude is really short,” said Randleman. “But then I was like, wait no. This dude is 13 years old.”
Despite a nine-year age gap, Randleman and Kairan became fast friends. Randleman said Kairan feels like a peer, although he does hold back from talking about college parties and drinking. Other than that, their friendship feels totally normal, Randleman said. The older student isn’t surprised Kairan landed a job at SpaceX — a company that accepts only 0.2% of all job applicants, according to career website Zippia.
“If any person could nail it, it would undeniably be him,” said Randleman.
However, Kairan noted that it wasn’t always simple. He applied for numerous jobs throughout the course of the year, receiving 95 rejections and only three full-time employment offers as a result. Amer expressed his desire that Kairan can go on fulfilling his potential in the future without feeling judged by those around him because he has seen Kairan struggle with being taken seriously due to his age.
“I always try to remember this phrase my mom says, which is: we’re always where we are supposed to be,” said Kairan.
Elissa Miolene is a Bay Area News Group education reporter for The Mercury News and East Bay Times.