Graduation speaker started college at 16

wPg01-Joshua Place-grad speaker
PCC 2013 graduation speaker Josh Place


When Josh Place, 20, enrolled at Pima Community College, he was only 16 years old. He had been home-schooled his entire life, going to his local high school mostly to participate on the football and track teams.

Four years later, he will be sharing his experiences with his fellow graduates as the commencement speaker, expressing what he has learned from his time in college.

“People, no matter how strange or extravagant they may seem, are all capable of incredible things,” Place said in a preview of the speech provided to Aztec Press.

Most Pima students remember the anxiety and anticipation they felt coming onto campus for the first time. For Place, it was even more intimidating.

“It was a big change,” he said. “Even for most people going from high school to college it’s a big change, but for me it was double.”

However, he wouldn’t alter the way he was educated for a chance to have a typical education at a public high school.

“I don’t see myself being able to dual-enroll at Pima if I hadn’t been home-schooled,” Place said.

He earned a 4.0 GPA his first semester at PCC and decided to keep working hard to maintain his grades. He was finished with his general education credits at the age when most people are finishing high school.

He switched his major three times before finally choosing to pursue an associate of applied science degree in integrated circuit layout design. Place credits an instructor at West Campus with helping him decide.

“He came into my class and explained the integrated circuitry program,” Place said. “I had no previous electronic classes.”

Place now hopes to transform that chance encounter into a career as an integrated layout designer, after four semesters in the program. One other student will complete the program alongside Place.

“There is a huge demand for graduates from the program,” Place said.

Pima is one of a handful of institutions in the country that offers the program, which is a partnership with Texas Instruments.

Place will also receive an associate general studies degree and a drafting advanced certificate, graduating top of his class with a 3.9 GPA.

“Pima has given me everything I need to go to work as soon as I graduate,” he said.

He may have to move to California or Texas for his career, due to larger markets and higher demand.

When Place isn’t in the classroom, he finds plenty of other activities to occupy what little free time he has. Saturdays he works for a small pottery business creating unique bowls and sculptures.

“I’m the only employee,” he said.

His boss builds metal sculptures and Place works the clay, creating a “mixed media” experience.

“We do all kinds of flowers, art stuff, bowls, and lots of other pieces,” Place said.

He also plays guitar at his church, where he was “thrown into” the leadership position.

“I didn’t know anything about guitar and was told I’m going to be leading the guitar, which was definitely a struggle,” he said. “But it gave me a great opportunity to take on a challenge.”

Place was 15 at the time, the youngest member of the group, and said the experience would prove invaluable during his time in college.

“It taught me how to deal with people, especially since I am usually always the youngest person in my class at Pima, and for some reason people want to compete with me.”

Place also owns a classic Ford Mustang that he would like to fix up, though he admits he hasn’t had much time to work on it recently with all his other commitments.

All of his experiences have led to the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be Pima’s commencement speaker.

“I am so lucky and grateful for all the opportunities Pima has given me,” Place said.

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