Homeschooled gal youngest ever to graduate from UT nursing school

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Madeleine, left, and Jacqueline Gaddis

Jacqueline Gaddis, right, with her older sister, Madeleine, both nursing students graduating together at UT’s college of nursing.

Jacqueline Gaddis is getting a head start on her nursing career.

Gaddis — who will receive her degree on Friday from the College of Nursing — is the youngest graduate that college officials can remember. She is only eighteen.

By Amy Blakley / University of Tennessee

She entered college at 15 and is graduating alongside her 20-year-old sister, Madeleine, who entered college at 16.

“College has been a part of my transition from adolescence to an adult,” Jacqueline said. “Entering college at 15 might not be normal for other people, but it’s my normal. I don’t have anything to compare it to, so graduating at 18 years old doesn’t feel weird to me.”

Homeschooling flexibility

The sisters, along with their 14 other siblings, were homeschooled. Jacqueline completed her middle school credits in two years, and both sisters completed high school credits and the ACT in three years. The flexibility of homeschooling allowed them to enter college early and at the same time.

“Being homeschooled made my transition to college really easy because I learned how to teach myself things, which helped with the workload that accompanies the nursing program,” said Madeleine.

Jacqueline concurred with her older sister: “The independence that’s required of homeschooling is a good setup for college. Most of the credit, however, should go to our parents. They started us in first grade at 5 years old and always encouraged us and inspired us to complete our work with excellence.”

Family played a large role in the sisters’ success in many ways.

Both parents come from a medical background — their father, Richard, is an internal medicine physician, and their mother Tami earned her bachelor’s degree in medical technology.

The Gaddis family of Middle Tennessee.

The Richard Gaddis family of Middle Tennessee.

Sister helps hold her accountable

Madeleine and Jacqueline are the second- and third-oldest of their siblings. Their older sister, Evelyn Amos, graduated from the College of Nursing in 2014 and is involved in short-term mission work with her husband, Adam Amos, through an organization called International Christian Resource. The couple lives in Indiana and takes medical students on international mission trips.

Being in the College of Nursing together gave each sister a sounding board and a cheerleader, as well as someone to hold them accountable.

“Going through one of the most interesting points of our lives — college — together was incredible,” Madeleine said. “Jacqueline has kept that zest for life from when she was young and is very passionate about college.”

Jacqueline added, “Our personalities are so different — we balance each other out really well. I’m not very indecisive — in fact, sometimes I’m hasty — but Madeleine balances me out and forces me to think things through.”

The sisters say they chose nursing because they wanted careers that are focused on caring for people in need and building relationships with others.

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