At age 17, Natchez teen has Copiah-Lincoln degree, full-time medical office job

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Natalie Stiles has lived her life in fast forward.

When most girls her age were preparing for the junior prom, Stiles was enrolling in college.

When her peers were graduating from high school, Stiles was graduating from Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

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While students on break are looking for summer jobs, Stiles is knee-deep in full-time medical work.

And she’s set a few precedents along the way.

At 16 Stiles was the youngest-ever student in the Co-Lin medical office technology program. At 17, this May, she was the youngest graduate of Co-Lin’s Natchez branch.

But it wasn’t an easy road, Stiles said.

&uot;They were skeptical of a 16-year-old in the program,&uot; she said. &uot;I did have to prove myself. They treated me like the baby around there.&uot;

It wasn’t long before teachers and instructors started realizing Stiles was serious about her goals.

&uot;I was really impressed with her after one semester here,&uot; Co-Lin teacher Linda Davis said. &uot;She is very focused and really learned how to adjust. Academically she was excellent.&uot;

By graduation Stiles had earned a 3.89 GPA, the medical office technology student of the year award and membership in several honor societies.

&uot;There were a lot of headaches and stress,&uot; Stiles said. &uot;It took endurance and perseverance.&uot;

After middle school at Robert Lewis and a little time at Natchez High, Stiles decided traditional school wasn’t for her and turned to home schooling, where she stayed until graduation.

&uot;Middle school was like high school for me,&uot; she said. &uot;I was president of my class and had all the dances. I decided I wouldn’t miss that much in high school. Home schooling is so flexible and I could further my relationship with God.&uot;

Home schooling also gave Stiles the chance to travel with her parents, who are evangelists. She also started her first job at age 15 as a tutor for Families First.

Since then she’s held down several jobs throughout school, including her current work for Dr. Sam Tumminello.

When it came time for college, Stiles decided to stick with what she’d always enjoyed, computers.

&uot;It just comes naturally to me,&uot; she said.

&uot;I didn’t want to be a doctor and I didn’t want to go to university yet.&uot;

Stiles said more education was in her future. &uot;She will move up and move on,&uot; Davis said. &uot;She is ambitious. After a couple of years she’ll be getting a higher degree.&uot;

Stiles’ mother, Paula Stiles, said her daughter never needed much help with school work.

&uot;I didn’t have to work with Natalie,&uot; she said. &uot;I’d like to take credit, but she was very motivated.&uot;

Paula Stiles said she allowed her daughter to forge her own path because she trusted in her daughter’s relationship with God.

&uot;She’s had to overcome a lot of opposition because she challenged a lot of people,&uot; Paula Stiles said.

&uot;Her relationship with the Lord, that’s what keeps me secure.&uot;