Like many high school students around the world, Kara Sue Hafermalz dreams of attending Harvard University.
After her performance on two tests last spring, there seems little doubt that the Dawson County High sophomore will one day walk the halls of the Cambridge, Mass., campus.
As a freshman, Hafermalz earned college credits by scoring high enough on two Advanced Placement tests.
"A score of three on any Advanced Placement test is the international benchmark for excellence," said Dawson County High School Principal Dr. Jute Wilson. "Though we celebrate any student who attains this level of expertise on an exam, it is very rare that a freshman performs as well."
Hafermalz took it a step further: She did so without taking either of the classes, comparative government and politics or U.S. government and politics.
"I was looking online and learned that I could take the tests without taking the classes," Hafermalz said after the Aug. 8 Dawson County Board of Education meeting where she was recognized for her achievement.
"So I got the books to study in January and took the tests in May."
Advanced Placement, or AP, classes give high school students the option of earning college credit.
"To pass Advanced Placement tests without having the benefit of the actual instruction is an exceptional accomplishment," said Dawson County Superintendent Keith Porter. "These courses are presented as college level courses with the highest level of rigor."
When high school seniors and juniors take them, they spend a lot of class time preparing for the end-of-course test that will determine if they earn college credit.
Assistant Superintendent Rick Brown hailed Hafermalz's accomplishment during the meeting.
"I've never seen this happen in my time here," Brown said. "Most juniors and seniors are expected to score at least a three after taking the entire class."
Hafermalz, who has her sights set on becoming an attorney, said taking the tests was the first step to fulfilling her dream.
"It was definitely hard," Hafermalz said. "I couldn't have done it without my parents, they were very important. They got me the books and helped keep me motivated."
Her father, Tom, summed up the achievement in one word: "Unbelievable."
Her mother, Joanne, said school has always been very important to their daughter.
"She's always been driven and goal oriented in school," she said. "She won several reading awards and things like that when she was younger, so she's always done well in school."
Wilson praised the family.
"Both she and her parents are obviously doing something right," he said. "Dawson County Schools cannot wait to see what the future holds for this bright young lady and we are excited about the possibilities."