Windermere resident Rhen Myers was 14 years old when she started college.
By age 16, Myers had finished her college general education requirements and had to select a major.
Now, while most students at the age of 18 are graduating high school, Myers is graduating summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a top honor graduation distinction.
Denise Myers knew her daughter was unique from a young age.
Rhen Myers excelled academically and skipped a grade before she entered her upper elementary school years.
“Academics have always been my strong suit, and that’s the way my brain is wired,” Rhen Myers said. “This has just always been my niche. My brain just learns information differently than others.”
Denise Myers said she placed a high priority on academics and made sure to supply her daughter with the tools she needed along the way.
“I didn’t just have her go to school, come home and simply ask her if she had any homework,” she said. “I would sit with her, and we would talk about things she was learning, and I would invest in her learning. I would always push her to expand her thinking. Not just in education but also in routes of how she gets there. As she has evolved through this process, she has adopted it to be her own.”
Rhen Myers attended The First Academy before transferring to Windermere High School.
When she was 14 years old, she began dual enrollment online through the University of Florida.
While many students chose to take Advanced Placement courses for college credit, Rhen Myers said she felt dual enrollment was a better option.
“You can do dual enrollment or AP to get college credit, but AP is a class you take all year where at the end you take a test that you either pass or fail,” she said. “Dual enrollment is on a grading scale, and the college classes only last a semester. Some of the AP credits also do not transfer the same to universities depending on where you decide to go.”
Rhen Myers finished her high school credits early. She decided to not graduate early but rather attend all four years to graduate later from Windermere with 74 college credits in May 2022.
Although she had obtained the Bright Futures scholarship and had a Florida Prepaid college plan, none of the money was utilized for her college credits. Because she was technically still a part of Orange County Public Schools, her dual enrollment was completely covered financially.
Rhen Myers started with general education courses at UF before transferring to UCF after a year.
At age 16, she was tasked with selecting a major to pursue. Denise Myers called on many business professionals to give her daughter some insight into potential careers.
“It is important to see what excites a kid’s brain chemistry,” Denise Myers said.
Rhen Myers rode on a plane with a pilot, talked to an anesthesiologist, spoke to a criminal defense attorney and even sat in a courtroom watching a murder trial for a week.
Having had a long-term exposure to law enforcement through her friends and family, Rhen Myers decided to pursue a criminal justice major.
Her first class in her major, Careers in Criminal Justice, was her first in-person class. Every session she attended featured a new guest speaker. She said the class sealed the deal for her in terms of her passion.
“I loved the concept of profiling, but after finishing the class, I realized no matter what route I took in the criminal-justice realm, I was going to love it,” Rhen Myers said. “The in-person classes brought me out of high school and put me in the real world, so I could have a taste of what life looks like.”
In addition to maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Rhen Myers worked part-time at Publix and Starbucks, respectively.
In high school, she was a member of the National Honor Society and a manager for the football team, participated in the Student Government Association and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and helped coordinate Dance Marathon for Children’s Miracle Network.
When she was 16, she attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Association’s Youth Leadership Program, where she was awarded a $1,000 scholarship. She also was asked to give the commencement speech at her graduation from the program.
Community service and giving back to others is a love that drives both mother and daughter.
Denise Myers said although the Bright Futures scholarship requires only 100 hours of community service for all four years of high school, she challenged her daughter to complete 100 hours every school year.
Rhen Myers graduated from WHS with more than 500 hours of community service.
At UCF, Rhen Myers participated in Knight-Thon for the Children’s Miracle Network.
She was also the leader of the eighth-grade girls group at a summer camp hosted by her church, Lifebridge Orlando, where she consistently serves in the youth and young adult ministry.
Denise Myers believes it is up to the parent to develop well-rounded individuals in their children. She said she worked hard to build a community around her daughter to help her excel and grow.
Instead of focusing only on academics, Rhen Myers played soccer, did gymnastics, wake surfs, spends time on the water, makes fitness a priority and loves developing her relationships with friends.
LEADING THE WAY
Her list of achievements may be long, but Rhen Myers said her age is the only caveat.
Graduating college at the young age of 18 leaves a question about what comes next.
Although she explored the possibility of pursuing a master’s degree or law school, her field of interest requires real-life experience.
She cannot attend the police academy until she is 19, and she must be 21 to enter into the FBI.
“I had someone come to speak at my first in-person class at UCF; he was retired Air Force and created his own intelligence company,” Rhen Myers said. “We spoke to him, and he said the military is a great option. I could do it with my age, and I also have some family members who are in the Air Force.”
Rhen Myers currently is planning to enlist in the Air Force. She hopes to secure a position in command control so she can experience leadership and learn from watching the commanders.
While enlisted, she plans to work on obtaining her master’s degree, which will be paid for by the military.
She will be enlisted for four years and finish when she is 22 years old. At that time, she will be considered a veteran, and hopes to apply for the FBI with the help of the veteran’s preference.
Her dream is to one day work for the FBI pursuing behavioral science on the criminal side.
In the meantime, she is considering a job offer from the Winter Garden Police Department as a 911 dispatcher.
Rhen Myers said the biggest piece of her story is her faith, and the way she has been led on her journey by something greater than herself.
“My faith is my center point,” Rhen Myers said. “Everything else revolves around that. God has the bigger plan for my life already laid out. I just have to trust in the steps as I go.”
Rhen Myers will graduate Aug. 5 from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in legal studies.
She said it’s surreal to think of the accomplishment, and she hopes to encourage other young adults to challenge themselves to do more and believe in themselves.
“When I sit down and think about it, I realize the norm is to graduate from high school when one is 18, but I’m graduating from college at the same age,” she said. “Doing that surprises me with how I even got that done. It’s really cool and it’s definitely a trinket for me to have in the back of my mind to know that I did that and have that accomplishment. It’s an encouragement, especially when people have told me that it couldn’t be done. I’m here, and I did it.”