Former Kekaha resident will get doctorate degree at 18

LIHUE — Earning a bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College after transferring from Chicago State University was a milestone for Thessalonika Arzu-Embry. But she wasn’t satisfied yet.

Even after graduating from Regent University with her master’s degree, the Chicago resident and former Kekaha resident saw an opportunity to grow more as a student and as a person. So Arzu-Embry enrolled in a doctorate program at Capella University, and is set to graduate this October with a 4.0 grade point average.

“It’s a matter of motivation and having the courage to continue with educational opportunities,” Arzu-Embry said.

And she’s only 18 years old.

While she was raised mainly in Chicago, Arzu-Embry’s earliest memories are of the beach with her parents on Kauai when they were stationed at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kekaha 11 years ago. Her mother and father were in the Navy and Air Force, respectively.

Her parents were stationed on Kauai when she was 4 to 7 years old. “We used to hike all the time and go to the beach. It had such a small-town charm. I felt like a native there,” she said.

After moving back to the Mainland, Arzu-Embry would find herself just a few years away from being an undergraduate.

At the age of 12, Arzu-Embry was a college student, sitting alongside her mother, Wonder, in class. Her mother was also taking courses at Chicago State University.

“We were study partners and participated in presentations and everything,” she said.

Arzu-Embry, who has an IQ of 199, earned a master’s degree in strategic foresight and organizational leadership through an online program offered by Regent University in Virginia. Because of her busy schedule of guest-speaking and writing books — three of which have been published — Arzu-Embry doesn’t have a lot of free time outside of school, as a graduate student.

Planning to graduate with a doctorate degree in business psychology at Capella University in Minnesota this fall, she admits to taking a road less traveled in her educational journey. But even though she didn’t have the typical high school or college experience as a teenager and young adult, she doesn’t regret missing out in exchange for an opportunity to jump-start her career and life at such a young age.

“I want to help and be a business associate and help businesses plan for their future and continue to be an app developer and write books,” she said.

After seeing a story in The Garden Island about how students at Kauai High School were encouraged to think creatively and differently using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) resources, Arzu-Embry was inspired and plans to return to Kauai after she graduates.

“I want to come back this year. To celebrate graduation and to host a seminar as well,” she said. “I was inspired by that article and I want to get people more into STEM careers.”

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