Fans of The Big Bang Theory likely know that Sheldon Cooper, portrayed by Jim Parsons, completed high school at only 11 years old. Impressive, right?
Well, not when taking into consideration Bensalem’s own David Balogun who, at the age of 9, completed his high school studies through Reach Cyber Charter School. A celebration was recently held for him in Harrisburg where his parents, Henry and Ronya, teachers and staff joined to recognize this outstanding achievement.
On the heels of their Harrisburg trip, The Times caught up with the Balogun family to hear how David, whose story is traveling the world thanks to coverage from Daily Mail and other outlets, climbed the educational ladder so quickly.
It all started in 2020 during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, which wreaked havoc on the school system. As districts nationwide transitioned to virtual learning, the Baloguns decided it was in David’s best interest to continue in this format, even when in-person learning returned.
The family already knew that David was intellectually gifted. In fact, he’s a member of Mensa, the largest and oldest high-IQ society in the world. Therefore, it made sense for Ronya to reach out to the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education and ask for recommendations on good cyber charter schools.
With its flexible pacing options and heavy emphasis on STEM in the curriculum, Reach Cyber, which is statewide and tuition-free, seemed like the best fit. David began the program as a third-grader, but his teacher quickly realized that he was capable of advancing to the next grade, which he completed in two months.
This trajectory continued, with David taking about two and a half months to finish each grade through eighth. He then excelled through high school in about a year.
“I wasn’t expecting to go through everything that quickly, but after the teacher in third grade said, ‘David could go to fourth grade,’ I realized that I can graduate earlier,” he told The Times.
According to David, he felt no pressure from his family to complete school at such a quick pace. It was a goal he set for himself, which made the process much more enjoyable.
“My mom didn’t say, ‘You have to graduate at the age of 9.’ She said, ‘You can graduate at the age of 9.’ Since I was motivated by myself, I was able to stick to my plan because I’m not forced by anybody to graduate,” he said.
“It was all him,” agreed Ronya. “He was always the driving force. I always call myself the cheerleader and the coach. Every athlete needs a coach. Michael Jordan needs a coach, Tom Brady needs a coach. I’m just right there to help, lead and advocate.”
For Henry, it’s extremely fulfilling to see his son possess such a strong love of learning at a young age.
“When he developed that kind of curiosity, we didn’t make any attempt to shut it down,” said Henry.
Of course, David is still a 9-year-old who wants to play and run around. However, even while he’s doing these typical childhood activities, he’s able to retain information thanks to a strong photographic and echoic memory.
“You think he’s not paying attention, but don’t worry about it. He’s going to repeat it verbatim,” said Henry. “It’s mind-boggling.”
David learned a lot in a short period of time, but his favorite project remains a building one he completed in grades three and four.
“It’s engineering, it’s science because you can’t build sideways with Jenga blocks,” he said. “It’s technology because what if I add this part to this part to make this part better? It’s also math, calculating the length of the building.”
He also enjoyed working with a teacher to refute the Big Bang Theory, which is the idea that the universe began as a single point and expanded to what we see today.
“One of the main anchors of our theory is that matter cannot be created or destroyed. According to the Big Bang Theory, at some point, matter was created and, at the end of the universe, matter would be destroyed, which violates the laws of physics, the most basic laws of physics that were created by mankind,” he said. “So that would be a big problem.”
Outside his studies at Reach Cyber, David earned the 2022 Distinguished Student Award from the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education. He also did a semester at Bucks County Community College. Looking ahead, he’ll continue his studies there until the Baloguns can find an institution (preferably University of Pennsylvania, Princeton or Harvard) that can accommodate a 9-year-old student.
“It’s not like we can leave him in a college dorm and walk away,” said Henry.
When that day does come, David sees himself studying a wide variety of topics, including nuclear chemistry, astrophysics and engineering, just to name a few.
David hopes his story inspires other high-IQ kids to dream big and try things — like graduating high school before qualifying for a learner’s permit — that might seem impossible at first.
“I think a lot of people out there can do the same thing, but they don’t have the resources or the opportunities to do so,” he said. “Sixty percent of gifted kids drop out of high school, not because they’re bad at it, but because they’re bored. They’re not being challenged enough. So if a school finds a gifted kid, they should individualize that kid’s education so that they will stay in school.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org