14-year-old student adjusts to college classes while pursuing her passions

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Electromagnetic theory, linear algebra and piano are just three of the classes 14-year-old Pangaea (Gigi) Finn is taking at Boise State University this semester. Gigi Finn, a freshman studying physics, math and piano performance, has been making steady achievements since she was a toddler. Being able to read at two, starting a nonprofit at age seven and testing herself by taking classes such as conceptual physics at age nine, she keeps growing and pushing harder everyday. 

While she gradually started taking math and science classes, Finn received a toy piano and soon noticed she had a natural talent for music as a toddler. 

“I got a toy piano at the age of maybe three, and I would play things on it that sounded kind of silly,” Gigi Finn said. “It was okay for no training, and then my grandma recommended piano lessons, so I started taking those at four.” 

Gigi Finn’s nonprofit is an initiative to discover better ways to save the rainforest just by eating and using palm oil-free products. Her inspiration was sparked by a girl she met at a summer camp who shared that same passion. 

“Essentially, palm oil is derived from oil palm trees and 85% of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia,” Gigi Finn said. “Workers end up destroying large areas of rainforest in order to make room for oil palm plantations and it’s really devastating the animals that live in the rainforest.”

Finn’s parents, Elizabeth and Shawn Finn, are proud of all that she has done and knew their daughter was gifted when they noticed taught herself to read at such a young age.

“We read to Gigi a lot when she was young, partly because she loved it so much and we would notice as we read to her that she was watching the books quite intently and at one point we were having a conversation if she was reading them or not,” Shawn Finn said. “We were sitting at a Chinese restaurant having this conversation and the check came out with fortune cookies. I thought here’s an opportunity, I opened it up and gave her the fortune and as a two year old, she read it.”

For being so young and progressing fast through school, there was no specific path set in place for Gigi Finn and her parents invested their time looking into the profoundly gifted communities and seeing what the best schooling options were. 

“We were able to piece together the appropriate education for her,” Elizabeth Finn said. “Math and science was over at Treasure Valley Math and Science, then online courses for humanities, self-study courses, dual-enrollment classes here. We could see that those dual-enrollment classes were working and then the doors just opened.”

Boise State has been very welcoming and accommodating to Gigi Finn. Of course, being at a very different stage of life from her peers, she struggled at first. 

“One problem is that people don’t take me seriously,” Finn said. “When I started, no one really had confidence in me. But when I spent more time in the class, both the students and teachers would realize, ‘Oh, hey, she’s smart.’”

As for the future, Gigi Finn is keeping her mind open to any opportunity that may come her way. 

“I have no idea what I want to do and the thing with a lot of gifted students is that you cannot set a path that extends more than five years in the future,” Gigi Finn said. “It’s always good to keep your mind open about new paths and I don’t want to settle right now on exactly what I want to do in the future.” 

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