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Teen Exercise Science Major on Fast Track

Lowell Student Said Youth No Barrier to Fitting in at UMass Lowell

exercise science student Veronica Maksymenko
Veronica Maksymenko is on track to earn her bachelor's degree in exercise science in three years at 17 years old.


Media Contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations, and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations,

Veronica Maksymenko won’t be old enough to vote when she graduates with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science this spring, or when she begins her doctor of physical therapy program this summer.

Despite her youth, Maksymenko, at 17, said she feels at home at UMass Lowell.

“My friends and I joke about me being a baby and how I couldn’t legally drive until the end of my junior year of college,” she said. 

“I have amazing friends and a class at UML that have made me feel so welcome.” 

Maksymenko began taking college courses at age 13. She already had more than two dozen credits when she started at UMass Lowell in fall 2020, at age 14. Now, she’s preparing for her spring clinical practicum and then graduation.

“The classes have been anything but easy,” said Maksymenko, who commutes about five minutes to campus from her home in Lowell. “I enjoy the challenge and find it extremely gratifying to see how I have grown as a student throughout my time at UML.” 

Maksymenko’s early education was “unconventional,” she said, with a blend of home and classroom learning, as well as online courses she started taking because she found the pace of elementary school too slow.

She completed sixth and seventh grades in a single year. At age 13, she took dual enrollment classes at Middlesex Community College, North Shore Community College and Gordon College. 

Maksymenko said she was drawn to UMass Lowell because of its convenience, affordability and academic program in the Department of Physical Therapy and Kinesiology.

A competitive dancer since age 5, Maksymenko said her recovery from an Achilles injury led her to discover an interest in physical therapy.

“My physical therapists didn’t tell me to sit on the couch for six weeks or to stop dancing. Rather, they made me stronger,” she said. “For the first time, I truly felt I had rehabilitated from an injury instead of putting a Band-Aid over it.

“I knew I wanted to give other people the same empowered feeling I had,” she said.

Once she enrolled at UMass Lowell, Maksymenko said age was never a barrier. She began taking virtual classes during the pandemic. The timing turned out to be a blessing. 

“When I started college, I was scared that I wouldn’t live the true college experience,” she said. “I could not have been more wrong. In my first year, I cultivated new friendships, joined the Exercise Science Club and grew increasingly excited for the following in-person year.” 

Maksymenko said her mother, a Ukrainian immigrant, has encouraged her to take advantage of all opportunities, which has motivated her success. “And UML challenges me and allows me to grow as a student,” she said.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe.