In 2007 at the age of 15 she made history as the youngest African-American female accepted into an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn).
Now 19, the whizz kid is still high in her game. She has made history once again as the school’s youngest engineer and the nation’s youngest African-American engineer. The 19-year-old recently graduated cum laude, earning her bachelor’s degree in computer science. Already, she’s landed a job with a software company outside of Boston.
Brittney studied anthropology at Harvard University while still in secondary school and later received a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania.
A multilingual (Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, Arabic and German), the power teen doubled her academic work load to graduate in four years with minors in math, psychology and classical studies. “I’ve never had less than five classes,” she explains “But I’ve had as many as 6.5 classes. I just made sure I had time to study. I went into the engineering school undeclared. I didn’t want to do chemical engineering. Computer science is a lot more theoretical and closer to math. I liked that part. It’s more abstract. That contributed to my strength.”
Born on Valentine’s Day—two weeks after her due date, to Chyrese and Christopher Exline. Brittney started making pyramid designs with blocks at 6 months old, walking at 8 months old and completing 24- to 100-piece jigsaw puzzles at 15 months old. Precocious from birth, you would agree. A trait not exactly surprising to her mum.
“She kind of came out that way with good advocating,” said her mother, a former geriatric administrator and part-time pageant coach. “I’m very involved in the school district. I did the same with my son. We made sure they got everything they needed to succeed. I made sure they remained committed even when they wanted to quit. They learned you can’t quit an activity just because it’s hard. Sometimes you need to stick with something. That’s the only way to learn how to persevere and overcome true obstacles. Eventually, it becomes a part of you. I believe this.”
Brittney is not only good with her academics, she also has a rich blend of other interests and passion.
She has held many pageant titles including 2004 Miss Colorado Pre-Teen and 2006 Miss Colorado Jr. National Teenager. At age 16, she worked with Sophrosyne Capital Hedge Funds as an investment analyst on the New York Stock Exchange. A year later, she emerged the youngest IT lead to travel to Cameroon with two other Penn students for One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit organization offering inexpensive laptops designed for children in developing countries.
Brittney has also made her mark, giving back to her community through volunteering. During her college years, she worked with Community School Student Partnerships in Philadelphia and became a member of the senior staff and a site coordinator for West Philadelphia High School, where she trained and mentored 30 tutors from Penn. An experience she found very exciting and compelling.
The young change agent is passionate about making a difference and doesn’t miss an opportunity. “There are a lot of things that need to be done. When I get the chance to go into that, I will make a difference.”
© 2016 – 2017, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.