CADILLAC — In May, 18-year old Josh Jacobson graduated from college with a bachelor of science degree in computer programming.
In June, he graduated from Cadillac High School with the class of 2019.
This summer he begins his career working for a tech company in Ann Arbor as a software developer.
“I get a salary, benefits, it’s full time, the whole sha-bang,‘ Jacobson said as he leaned his 6-foot 3-inch frame into a chair at the student center of Baker College.
When he started applying for jobs, he told his mom that he was ready to go to work. He’s been looking for an apartment.
“It will be quite a transition,‘ he said. “There’s a whole lot I’ve taken for granted under my parent’s roof. It’s expensive to exist ... and I’m missing out a bit of the summer with my friends but the joy is that most of them will be downstate at school ... I’m a little nervous for my mom.‘
This is how a local teenager completed advanced high school courses and an accelerated two year college degree with two required internships. And almost no one knew he was doing it.
Kelly Rhodes works with dual enrollment high school juniors and seniors at Baker College of Cadillac.
She met Jacobson when he was a sophomore. He wanted to take summer classes to free up his time for electives like band, he loves marching band.
To qualify, he took his SAT test early. Then he took a college class that summer.
That’s how he met students dual enrolled in associate degree programs. And that’s how he got the idea to get a bachelor of science degree while in high school.
Rhodes did her best to discourage him. So did Baker College President Kelly Smith.
But Jacobson was extremely motivated. He likes “the rigorous stuff.‘ He also thought: “If I can get ahead of where I’m supposed to be in life, I can save money.‘
“It was a daunting thing for him,‘ Smith said. “There was no time for him to have fun or be a regular kid. Last week he told me, ‘you were right.’‘
Cadillac High School
Cadillac High School advanced math teacher Andy Whipple met Jacobson when he joined the robotics team freshman year.
“We needed somebody to program, somebody to make the code,‘ Whipple said. “He went home and learned. By sophomore year he went to another level of coding and that’s how we got into cyber security.‘
In 2016 Jacobson was on a team of three who competed in the Governor’s High School Cyber Challenge. They took third place that year, second in 2017, and first place in 2018.
As a sophomore, he was named a winner in the Congressional App Challenge for creating a software application.
Jacobson also provided leadership on the robotics team. According to Whipple, he was mentoring, encouraging and leading the team while on the phone with six other teams to help with tech issues.
“He has the incredible capacity to make school look easy and be involved in everything else,‘ Whipple said.
Jacobson participated in quiz bowl, placed in the state forensics competition, and was a member of the National Honor Society, student council, marching band, drama club and theater production, and the yearbook staff.
Whipple didn’t know about Jacobson’s college enrollment until this spring. Jacobson didn’t tell anyone in case it became “one of his crazy ideas‘ that didn’t work.
“He spent so much time in robotics,‘ Whipple said. “I have no idea how he handled college.‘
“Josh studied trombone privately, gave lessons and never missed a pep band performance,‘ said Mike Filkins, band director. “He’s been successfully pulling my leg since he was a freshman ... He refers to himself as a nerd, but he connects so well with his peers that he defies the typical social awkwardness of a nerd.‘
“This was a journey for Josh and a journey for us,‘ Smith said. “He’s our own little Sheldon Cooper. We all love him here.‘
“I told him it would be difficult,‘ said Rhodes. “He didn’t understand until he was in the depths of it ... the 1000 and 2000 level courses were a cake walk for him.‘
Jacobson was used to “knocking off‘ the easy classes.
But then his grade level dropped in the 3000 and 4000 level classes.
“He had to retake a course or two,‘ Rhodes said. “But this didn’t deter him. He adjusted. We expected him to get a doctorate and we told him he can’t get into grad school with a low CPA. He got it.‘
“I think he tried to hide these challenges from us so he could continue doing his robotics,‘ said his mom Lisa, with her husband Tom nodding in agreement. “He struggled with deadlines during robotics, he would be there after school sometimes until midnight.‘
Jacobson completed his required internships with Cogent Technology Solutions in Cadillac and then they hired him part time.
“He’s gifted, yes,‘ said Rich Houk, CTS owner. “But he’s not arrogant. He has an amazing personality and he’s easy to work with.‘
‘Hundreds have helped me along the way’
“It would be pretentious to say I was born with this gift,‘ Jacobson said. “I had a lot of great opportunities growing up — caring parents, supportive teachers and great schools. I don’t think of myself as that special. I’m doing my best trying to be a good person and doing the work. Kelly Rhodes really worked miracles with me at Baker and I’ve had the perseverance to work at it. But there is a certain level of luck to having these opportunities. Dozens, if not hundreds of people have helped me along the way.‘
Josh is the son of Dr. Lisa Jacobson, DO, with Cadillac ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery in Cadillac. Tom Jacobson, an industrial machine programmer, is a stay-at-home dad, a community volunteer and the couple has a daughter Rebecca, 14.