Despite not having a typical high school experience, Doneliezer Baize said his family and friends always helped him succeed in college and never made him feel alienated. Now going to Purdue University in Indiana for graduate school, he reflected on how his friends and family helped him have an ordinary life, despite his above-average intelligence in math and science.
At age 15, Doneliezer Baize’s life took a drastic turn away from his peers when he skipped high school and began college at BYU–Hawaii. Baize, a graduating senior from Kahuku, Hawaii majoring in applied math and physics, said his parents were his greatest source of encouragement, but always let him have agency.
“I feel like I was shaped in a really good and different way,” he said. “Nowadays, there’s a lot of standardized ways in how the world is set, and it doesn’t allow people who are different to succeed. If you look back at all the great minds like Einstein or Isaac Newton, did they have the same standardized setting? No, they had a more open world of learning. They learned from a master and did things in an unconventional way.
“Every mind is so unique and we should always be open to teaching someone a little differently. Education is not one size fits all.”
In the time between eighth grade and when he would have begun high school, Baize took the Johns Hopkins’ Search For Talented Youth test and received a high enough score to begin college early.
“Even though I didn’t have a normal high school experience, I never felt alienated,” Baize said. “I always had some constant friends from both middle school and friends I made in college. At one point, my best college friend was nine years older than me.
“The people I hung out with were true friends who were never jerks to me just because I was in college while they were in high school. I never wanted to be seen as arrogant or too good to other people. And luckily, I never did.”
Baize said although he did not get the usual high school experience, he still got to enjoy some of the typical teenage rites of passage. “Honestly, I didn’t really care about not going to high school. I ended up still going to prom and the Sadie Hawkins dance, and my friends from my old school asked me to go. Going to college, it was really good to get that much freedom and get away from such a fixed curriculum.
After going to Purdue, Baize said he plans to “find a big idea and start a company. If you look at people like Mark Zuckerberg and other great minds, they sometimes dropped out of school because they had such a groundbreaking idea. That might be what I end up doing.”
Baize admitted he would face the challenges of living away from home for the first time, but said assuredly he was up for the challenge. “I’ll actually be going to Purdue along with my brother, who’s [ a few years] older than me. So I will have someone familiar to me when I’m far from home.”
His friend, Melissa Nguyen Lumogdong, an alumna who graduated with a bachelor’s in biochemistry, worked with him in the math lab for the past three years. “I’m a little nervous for him going to Purdue because it’s so far away and he’s only 18. But he has his brother going with him and he’s insanely smart so I know he’ll thrive there. Also, I’m gonna miss him a ton.
“I would say his greatest strength is that he’s so caring for all of his friends. Even if he has a million things to do, he will always make time for a friend. Something I learned from him is that you should always make time for the little things in life like going to get ice cream with a friend or making time for a ward game night, or whatever it might be.”
Baize credited his parents for implanting his interest in learning, particularly math and science. “My dad, who is an optometrist, also taught me all about math. He taught me really quickly growing up, and he’s one of the main reasons why I’m so successful. My mom has also helped in so many ways and I owe everything to both of my parents.
Baize said his father and mother “were never helicopter parents,” meaning they never hovered over him without giving him free time. Instead, he said they were a great source of encouragement.
He continued, “I never felt like they expected too many things, and because they taught me everything I know. I feel undeniably grateful to them. Growing up, my passion for math came from my father. People always talk about math as being this horrible thing but it’s honestly a rewarding experience. It requires a lot of work, which people often don’t like, but for me, I learned a ton about discipline.”
Speaking very highly of BYUH’s Holokai academic structure, Baize explained how it encouraged him to take classes someone in his major might not typically take, but ended up enjoying. “I had an art minor, and then got a web development minor, but my favorite class I ever took had to be the ceramics course taught by Brother Jackson. I just loved seeing an object in my mind and being able to make it out of clay with my hands.
“To me, it was so important to take a class different from my major. It gave me a breath of fresh air. In college, everyone needs something which serves as a release, so I feel like the class was a great release.
“I love the Holokai program. I think it’s so great to actually let the student choose what he wants to learn”
Baize said he could not think of course he didn’t like. “There’s never been a class I absolutely hated. I guess I have a love for learning and have always tried being open to new things and experiences.”
As part of his self-described “plan for success,” Baize said before the beginning of each semester, he would always go to other students and ask them for advice about which classes to take. “I usually never ended up taking the classes I signed up for. I did a lot of research into what the best choice for me was, and then I’d go from there.”
While he dedicated much of his time to educational endeavors, Baize said he always made sure to make time with friends and not let his schoolwork burn him out. “Time management really was the most important thing for me. I learned a lot from the Hawaiian lifestyle and tried not to worry too much.
“Even though I know a lot about math and science, I know it’s not enough to attain salvation. I try to have a balance between my education and my spiritual life. As a scientist, I have to think logically, and yet I know God does not operate with my idea of logic. In fact, He defies logic. I’ve met some people who are into math and science who don’t make room for religion in their lives.”
As Baize goes into his future at Purdue, his best friend, Dallyn Christy, said, “Doneli is my best friend so I will definitely miss him. I am super happy for his achievements and consistent success I am not surprised he aced college and he is going to an incredible grad school. Don is the brightest person I know. He will undoubtedly excel at Purdue.”