Alena with Clayton Turner, the director of Nasa’s Langley Research Center. Turner attended Alena’s high school graduation ceremony and became her mentor. Picture: Alena Analeigh/Washington Post

Alena Analeigh Wicker is like other 13-year-olds in that she enjoys going to the movies, playing soccer, baking and hanging out with friends.

But very much unlike other teenagers, she just got accepted to medical school.

“I’m still a normal 13-year-old,” said Alena, a student at both Arizona State University and Oakwood University, where she is earning two separate undergraduate degrees in biological sciences. “I just have extremely good time management skills and I’m very disciplined.”

In May, Alena was offered a spot at the University of Alabama’s Heersink School of Medicine for 2024, as part of its Early Assurance Programme that offers early admission to applicants who meet specific requirements. Alena is more than 10 years younger than the average incoming medical student.

“What is age?” said Alena, who lives just outside Fort Worth and is completing most of her courses online. “You’re not too young to do anything. I feel like I have proved to myself that I can do anything that I put my heart and mind to.”

When Alena was three years old, her mother started noticing that she was far from a typical toddler.

“Alena was gifted,” said her mother, Daphne McQuarter. “It was just how she did things and how advanced she was. She was reading chapter books.”

Learning new skills, Alena said, came easily to her, and once she started school, she was sometimes taunted for her scholastic talents