Dorothy Jean Tillman, a remarkable teenager from Chicago, has achieved an extraordinary academic feat. By the age of 14, she had already earned an associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dorothy decided to pursue a doctorate, aiming to make a positive impact on young people’s mental health.

Her mother, Jimalita Tillman, was initially surprised by Dorothy’s decision, given her commitments to launching and funding a STEAM camp startup. However, she supported her daughter’s ambition wholeheartedly.

Fast forward two years, and at 17, Dorothy successfully completed her dissertation and graduated from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions on May 8, 2024. Her dissertation examined the stigma that prevents university students from seeking mental health treatment.

Dorothy’s academic journey began early. By age 7, she was tackling high school coursework and taking college-level tests. She also runs the Dorothy Jeanius STEAM Leadership Institute, a program designed to inspire young people in Chicago and internationally to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

Dorothy attributes her success to the unwavering support of her mother and draws inspiration from her grandmother, Dorothy Tillman, a former Chicago alderwoman who collaborated with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.

Looking ahead, Dorothy plans to expand her STEAM camps and apply her research to her work. She hopes to franchise the camps and increase her efforts with children in Africa. She firmly believes her achievements are the result of a supportive family and community.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” says Dorothy, emphasizing the importance of the collective support she has received.

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