It will be another 11 months before Deirdre Jane Prigge can legally get her driver’s license, but she’s already checked high school diploma off her to-do list.
The 15-year-old is one of the youngest—if not the youngest—to graduate from a Loudoun County high school. She was officially awarded her diploma from Riverside High School on Aug. 3, after she completed a full slate of summer courses.
“I’m glad to be done. It’s a relief,” the teen said this week. “On the other hand, every time you face a change, it’s stressful. So here we are at another change.”
Her work toward graduating early started her eighth-grade year at Belmont Ridge Middle School, when she took high school-level math classes and foreign language classes. Then after her freshman year at Riverside, she started taking summer classes, knocking out physical education and personal finance classes. She’s spent each summer since taking as many classes as her schedule would fit.
Deirdre Jane, who lives with her parents and Maltipoo puppy in Lansdowne, said her goal early on wasn’t exactly to graduate early, but she figured she’d might as well squeeze in as many classes as she could. She’s known since she was young that she wanted to be either a doctor or a lawyer—two career paths that require several years of post-graduate school.
“I was kind of thinking, well, wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to wait until I was 27 to start my career,” she said. “My mom always taught me to be very prepared, and I was thinking it’d be better to get ahead just in case something goes wrong—it’d be less pressure.”
Deirdre Jane expected since she was in middle school that she’d be able to finish high school in just three years. “But when I realized that if I pushed myself I could actually graduate in two years I figured why not?”
She spent her recent summer months completing her last four required courses: two science classes, an English and a government class. That earned her a place in Riverside’s class of 2018.
Robert Yarborough, director of school counseling at Riverside, said Deirdre Jane is the first student he knows of in his 24 years of working in high schools that met all their graduation requirements prior to 11th grade.
“Deirdre is one of kind and one of the most motivated and dedicated students that I have worked with in my career,” he said. “She was able to make this happen because she took high school courses through Belmont Ridge Middle School, Riverside High School, NOVA, Virtual Virginia and Virtual Loudoun over the course of her last two years in middle school and first two years of high school. Truly an incredible feet of passion and perseverance!”
Deirdre Jane also leaves high school with a full year of college credits under her belt, which she earned through several dual enrollment courses at Northern Virginia Community College.
The teen won’t take much of a break before she continues working toward her associate’s degree. She’ll begin a full course load at NVCC in just a few weeks, taking Spanish, speech, history and two math classes.
“I do better staying busy,” Deirdre Jane said. “I’ve found that even if you have nothing to be like ‘woe is me’ about, if you sit around on the couch long enough you’ll find something.”
She’s already narrowed down her dream job—to work as a prosecutor and later a judge. She’d like to be a prosecutor who shows fairness and restraint. “I think there’s a real need for that,” Deirdre Jane said. “I feel like a lot of people judge others just by one thing they did wrong, but they give themselves grace for a lot of complexities. It’s really important to recognize that everyone has just as a complex inner-life as you do.”
Before the teen continues making headway toward that legal career, she said she will give in and take a few weeks off. She plans to catch up on sleep and take a few classes that call for little note-taking and a lot of relaxation, including yoga and Zumba.
“My two favorite classes,” she said with a grin. “Hopefully, it will be more restful.”