If you ask Daniel Lee about his hobbies, his interests, or his plans for the future, he will likely engage you in a powerful conversation about his love for all types of music and his passion for learning new things. Articulate and eloquent, he is only at a loss for words – hesitating for just a bit – if you ask him about high school.

That’s because Daniel was homeschooled and completed all the requirements for his high school diploma while other students his age where completing their junior year. In fact, although he only recently celebrated his seventeenth birthday, he has already completed a number of college courses. He credits his Mom, who doubled as his homeschool teacher, for allowing him to work at his own pace and get ahead of schedule.

And while that sometimes makes it difficult to put a label on his educational progress, Daniel said he just considers himself a college student and pretty much like every other student at Virginia Highlands Community College – even if he was slightly younger when he enrolled at the age of 16.

“Most of the time, unless I tell people how old I am, I don’t feel out of place,” he said, explaining that he transitioned from the homeschool classroom to VHCC in the Fall of 2017. “This has been my first real experience of being in a class with other people, so it has been a little different. I’m getting used to it.”

While excelling at credit courses like English and Computer Applications, Daniel also found time for a non-credit course that piqued his interest. He’s always been intrigued by drones and discovered that VHCC offered a course offiically labeled Remote Airman Training that focuses on the safe and legal methods for flying drones. After just a few weeks of classroom instruction and hands-on practice, he completed the course and passed the national exam required to become a licensed drone pilot.

“I’ve always liked drones and thought it would be cool to get certified,” he said. “The class was a lot of fun.”

Because he’s fully licensed, Daniel now has the skills and knowledge to take his own drone out into nature, where he’s already captured some great photos at Backbone Rock and other scenic spots in our region.

But he still finds time for his other love – music.

Daniel enjoys listening to all types of music, plus playing piano, guitar, harmonica and ukulele.  He’s even dabbled at songwriting. In fact, last month he earned a second-place award in the youth category of VHCC’s annual Richard Leigh Songwriters Contest. His award-winning song is entitled “Willows.”

When Fall Semester begins in August, Daniel will be taking Anatomy & Physiology II at VHCC and thinking about the next phase of his education. He’s already given some thought to transfer universities, he said, noting that he’s visited Liberty University where his older sister is enrolled.

Until then, VHCC has been a great place for him to explore a variety of interests and get used to attending classes with other students after years of solo learning at home. The only downside, he said, is that he can no longer attend class in his pajamas.