Cab-Schooled Student Earned Ticket To Harvard

Imagine the back seat of a big rig as your high school classroom. For Kerry Anderson, who was home-schooled as her truck-driver mom made deliveries across the country, that was reality. Anderson eventually got through community college and received a full scholarship to Harvard University. Michele Norris talks to Anderson, now 26, about her unconventional education.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Im Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

From tractor-trailer tagalong to a top-notch candidate for law school, our next guest has a remarkable academic success story.

Kerry Anderson spent her middle and high school years riding in the cab of a big rig with her truck-driver mother. She was homeschooled on the road, and eventually she went to a community college. So Anderson was floored back in 2007 when a recruiter from Harvard University came calling and offered a full ride if she'd like to transfer.

We read this morning in the Orlando Sentinel of her recent Harvard graduation, and Kerry Anderson joins us now. Congratulations, and I'd like you to pick up the story from there.

Ms. KERRY ANDERSON: Thank you. Yeah, actually, I was graduating from Valencia. I wasn't sure where I was going to go next, and I got this email, and they said that they were very interested, and they wanted for me to transfer.

And I couldn't believe it. I had to research it first because I thought it might have been some kind of scam or something. But it was real. It was legitimate. And I transferred the next spring.

NORRIS: So I'm trying to imagine when you are new to Harvard and everyone sits around and talks about their experiences, where they're from, where they went to school, and then you start describing your life on the road in the big rig, being homeschooled by your truck-driver mother. Tell us what that was like.

Ms. ANDERSON: The students' eyes got wide but also the professors. It's not a story they hear very often at Harvard. There are very few transfer students, and the ones that there were, they were from places like Berkeley and Stanford and places like that. So Valencia Community College alone was very unusual, and then add in the homeschooling and the truck-driving experience, and I was a very unique case.

NORRIS: You and your brother, were you both homeschooled?

Ms. ANDERSON: Yes. He's two years younger than I am. My mom took us both out of school and homeschooled us both.

NORRIS: So when did you actually hold classes? How did you actually complete your schooling while you were traveling from one state to the other?

Ms. ANDERSON: A lot of our schooling actually as integrated into what she was doing. When we know where we were going, Texas to California, for instance, we had to map out the mileage. We had to map out when we had to fuel, how fast we were going to be going, where we needed to stop, rest areas, all of that kind of thing, what our fuel mileage was going to be.

That's how she got us going on a lot of it. And then there was a program that we mailed things in. So we did it at our leisure, basically.

NORRIS: So you did it right there in the cab of the truck?

Ms. ANDERSON: Yes.

NORRIS: And was your mother someone who had a teaching background? This sounds like it was a bit of an adventure for her, too.

Ms. ANDERSON: It absolutely was. She did not have an education background, but she knew that we but she wanted us to do very well academically, and so she took it upon herself to make sure we did.

NORRIS: So when you actually transferred first to Valencia Community College and then later on to Harvard, it must have been almost boring to sit in a classroom.

Ms. ANDERSON: It was a different experience. I had to learn how to study in that atmosphere again and the deadlines and things like that. But I got very involved in extracurricular activities at Valencia - Phi Beta Kappa and student government and things like that. So that kind of kept my attention.

NORRIS: So what do you miss most about the classroom on the road, the rolling classroom?

Ms. ANDERSON: Actually, I just went back on the road with her for about a week, right after I came home, and I think the thing I miss the most is the total culture. It's a different culture. You meet different kinds of people, and you get to see different kinds of you hear different stories and things like that, and I miss that. It's a different thing you don't get sitting in a classroom.

NORRIS: Mom must have been pretty proud of you when you graduated from Harvard.

Ms. ANDERSON: Slightly, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Slightly? Is that an understatement, I guess?

Ms. ANDERSON: Yes. She was very proud of herself, she only cried once.

NORRIS: What's next?

Ms. ANDERSON: I'm studying for the LSAT now, and I'm headed to law school after that.

NORRIS: Kerry Anderson, good to talk to you.

Ms. ANDERSON: You, too, thank you.

NORRIS: That's Kerry Anderson. She's a 2010 Harvard grad and still the proud daughter of a truck driver.

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