Wave Staff Report
CULVER CITY — Since 1969, West Los Angeles College has awarded degrees and certificates to students from a wide range of ages. But no one on campus can recall a pair quite as unique as siblings Rohit and Pooja Datir.
At the respective ages of 12 and 14, this brother and sister will graduate on June 8 with four associate degrees each and summa cum laude status.
Their father, Rahul Datir, explained his two wunderkinds were inspired by their older brother, who graduated from high school as the class valedictorian. If he could do it, said Datir, the siblings thought they could too and age was not an issue. Both siblings worked relentlessly. “
I had to tell them ‘Go to sleep. Play a game,’” Datir recalled with a laugh.
Their academic prowess was evident as early as the fourth grade when their teachers were running out of materials from higher grades to offer them. It was then that the pair switched to an online-based charter school.
At the suggestion of a teacher, their parents, both of whom work in information technology, attempted to enroll the kids at their local Riverside Community College. However, Riverside did not admit youth as young as Rohit and Poojah, so they enrolled at West L.A. College.
“The conversion to fully online during the pandemic was actually helpful for us,” Datir said. Prior to that, the parents or a friend would make the long drive from Moreno Valley to escort their children to in-person classes. They even rented a hotel near the college during exam weeks.
“It was only because of West L.A. that this was possible,” Pooja Datir said. “Other colleges wouldn’t even let us take classes.”
“We felt really motivated because everybody [at West L.A.] didn’t treat us any differently. They tried to help us do it and the staff and faculty were really supportive so we were very happy on campus,” Rohit Datir said.
“Too often community colleges are incorrectly thought of as a place where students who made some missteps in high school end up,” James M. Limbaugh, West L.A. College President. “In fact, colleges like West are filled with scholars who were remarkable students in high school who want to save on tuition, appreciate the smaller class sizes, want a transition period before leaving home, and so on.
“In fact, our 2021 valedictorian — Mina Guirguis — is also younger than usual. He graduated early from high school, completed his associate degree at age 17 and will transfer to UCLA as a junior in the fall.
“West is a resource providing paths to success for students of every age and background from these extraordinary young students to middle-age freshmen who are looking to change or advance their careers. Our slogan ‘Go West. Go Far,’ is a possibility for all,” Limbaugh added.
West Los Angeles College is an accredited community college that is part of the Los Angeles Community College District. It offers career certificates and degrees, university transfer and professional advancement courses.
Known for its expansive views and small college feel, West L.A. is one of only 15 California community college authorized to offer a bachelor’s degree in a subject. At West L.A., that subject is dental hygiene. The college has been a leader in online education for over 20 years and has received numerous awards and recognitions for its online programs.