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Kory Kittell - B.A. in Political Science

High school dropout graduates from college with a 4.0 GPA and law school admission offers

Mr. Kittell

At age 17, Kory Kittell dropped out of high school. Fourteen years later, he was awarded his bachelor of arts in political science on May 15 wth a perfect 4.0 grade point average. His next step is to enroll in a top law school program.

He's deciding between law school admission and financial aid offers from several schools, but is leaning toward attending Duke Law School.

"A large part of my learning experience has been realizing that there truly are few barriers to one's education even outside of the classroom," Kittell sats, "and that opportunities which students might tend to think are out of reach are deceptively easy to grasp."

It took determination and persistence for Kittell to transform himself from a high-school dropout into a sought-after law school.

"Since attending UH, Kory has learned that the obstacles to education he faced as a teen can be overcome and surpassed," says Dr. Robert Carp, professor of political science.

Childhood and adolescence were difficult for Kittell after his parents divorced and he lived between their Houston-area homes. The constant moving back and forth led to difficulty fitting in at the different schools he attended. He had trouble making friends, and often felt lonely and frustrated.

As he got older, he lost interest in school and began skipping classes. His grades fell. Eventually he gave up on school altogether and dropped out at age 17, opting instead to earn his GED and join the workforce.

"After leaving high school, my first real job was as a computer technician with a big-box retailer," Kittel says. "After a couple of years working on the retail side, I eventually ended up as an in-house technician for an engineering company."

In his spare time, Kittell taught himself how to program computers, and worked his way up to a position as a front-end and database programmer with an oil and gas company. "In a little less than a decade, I had gone from retail technician to being responsible for several pieces of software within an oil and gas company," he says.

However, he knew that his career advancement would be even faster if he had a degree. Since he had always been self-taught, he started contemplating the pros and cons of attending college. A diagnosis sealed his decision.

"Unfortunately, my mother was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder during that time," he says. "Knowing that I needed a level of education that I would not be able to learn by myself, I decided to step down from my work to help her and simultaneously attend college."

He started out at Lone Star Community College — North Harris in Fall 2011 to take his basic courses.

"Initially, I had every intention of bumbling my way through a computer science degree," says Kittell. "But I met an amazing professor while at community college, and she helped foster my interest in politics into a love of political science and law. I found a way to join my ability to process and solve complex problems with my interest in helping others."

He transferred to UH in Fall 2013 as a political science major. He balanced his life at home with his schoolwork, and excelled at his classes.

"I found that a lot of what is necessary is simple perseverance, a drive to excel, and the ability to ignore the daily distractions that hound us all," he says.

As he worked his way through his coursework, he also gained applied experience by interning for U.S. Senator John Cornyn and participating in the Model United Nations program in New York.

"Being able to experience the challenges and concerns that governmental organizations must navigate has been an amazing learning experience. In addition, the relationships I was able to build in the process are priceless," says Kittell.

As graduation neared, Kittell began thinking about his future. He turned to his CLASS professors for guidance.

"From the discussions with several of my professors, I recognized that attending law school would allow me to best use my natural talents in logic and analytical thought to have a positive effect on the lives of those around me," Kittell says.

"Kory has been one of the best students I have taught in my 46 years at the University of Houston," says political scientist Dr. Carp. "His research papers and examinations were consistently at the top A quality. He possesses a maturity, which has been an asset for him because he is able to analyze a subject from 'a street perspective' as well as a purely academic perspective."

Kittell credits Dr. Carp and others at UH for expanding his vision of his future and his confidence in his ability to achieve his goals.

"The best piece of advice that I have received from Dr. Carp and others is that I shouldn't self-select out of anything simply because of prior circumstances," he says. "One's past need not necessarily be a barrier to the future. We all have the ability to become the people we wish to be."

- By Monica Byars