DENTON — Leaving home at the age of 16 isn’t common for most teens, but the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science on the University of North Texas campus provides just that opportunity. It’s a residential program for gifted and talented students considering STEM careers and looking for a more rigorous curriculum.

DENTON — Leaving home at the age of 16 isn’t common for most teens, but the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science on the University of North Texas campus provides just that opportunity. It’s a residential program for gifted and talented students considering STEM careers and looking for a more rigorous curriculum.


"I somewhat knew what to expect based on the different programs that I did before but I didn’t really expect it to be as full of opportunities as it was," Mathew Black of Leonard said. "There’s pretty much anything that you could want to do there whereas coming from a smaller town, there’s not nearly many opportunities there."


Black is currently the only student from the Texoma region attending the TAMS program. He would be a senior in high school but because he’s enrolled in the TAMS program, he is a sophomore in college.


Not only does the TAMS program offer a rigorous curriculum but Black said it also allows students to have fun and meet people with similar interests. He said it worth the hard work because the program allows for students to learn more than they would have received from their own schools or programs.


"Our purpose is to get students interested in STEM careers — science, technology, engineering and math — and you can include medicine in that as well," TAMS Director of Admissions Brent Jones said. "It gets students who can do a high level of college work while they are still junior- and senior-aged high school students into college early so they can survey the types of classes and requirements for high-tech work and high training."


TAMS is a two-year program. It allows students to earned 57 or more college credits. Students do not have to pay tuition, book costs, or fees while they are enrolled in the TAMS program. Once they complete the program, students may continue their education at UNT or transfer to another university.


"It is astounding to me how smart some of the people there are," Black said. "It was mainly a wake-up call more than anything because you would look around and see there was people way smarter than you. That’s OK. There was also people that weren’t as smart as you."


There will always be someone smarter than you and there will someone not as smart as you, Black said. In the TAMS program, students will help others study and learn for different classes. The TAMS community is very helpful and Black said he tried helping others as much as he could.


When he was not studying, you could find Black in computer science club meetings or planning events for McConnell Hall, the dormitory the TAMS students live in during the school year. By living all together, Black said, it was easy for students to get to know each other and possibly leave behind struggles from their old schools.


"I do know a lot of people that say their old school wasn’t great … and they come to TAMS and everybody is different," Black said. "We’re all smart and we have the same general ideas so whenever you come to a place where everyone is like-minded, it’s easy to make friends. There are always those people who insist on their room and studying all the time, but the best advice for people who want to make friends and have a good time is to get out a little bit and join a club."


After attending the TAMS program, Black said he hopes to pursue a career in computer science. The program has introduced him to hackathons, competitions that require participants to compete and build a website, app or device in about 36 hours. When he participated in a hackathon in Las Vegas, he won $20,000 with his classmate.


"It is single-handedly one of the best opportunities you can take because there is no way you can possibly get anything like TAMS at a normal (high school)," Black said. "There are so many opportunities and they give you several chances to do something that you’ve always dreamed about. It’s really amazing to me."


Lansing "Lanny" Horan IV of Denison first heard about the TAMS program when he was in the seventh grade and after years of excelling in public school, Horan decided to attend the TAMS program in the fall of 2013. At the age of 18, Horan completed the TAMS program with his high school diploma and 77 college credit hours.


"It just seemed like a really cool opportunity, and I wanted to college as soon as I could," he said. "By going to college early, it just made me take more of an initiative. I think I would have been held back if I would have stayed in my hometown."


Megan and Lansing Horan III, Lanny’s parents, said they have watched their son grow over the two years he has attended the TAMS program. His father said he proud of his son who learned how to balance adapting to a new environment, making new friends and completing an aggressive study schedule.


In the fall, Lanny will attend Texas A&M University to study engineering. He said he will most likely choose the nuclear engineering program because he believes it is the future of this world. Lanny said he believes fusion is possible in his lifetime.


"One thing that stands out is truly how many exceptional students there are in the state," Jones said. " It’s impressive how mature they are and how much they want in life even at this early age. They are prepared to work hard and stay motivated in order to reach those goals."