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By Sean Collins

Aja Purvis watched nervously as her kindergarten teacher and principal talked in the doorway outside her classroom. They kept glancing over at her, upsetting her the more they talked. All she did was read a book, so why was she getting in trouble?  

Just as she started to tear up, her teacher came over to her with a huge smile on her face. Purvis had actually impressed the principal with her ability to read at a 3rd-grade level when she was only 5 years old. Her principal was so impressed that he encouraged Purvis to read a book out loud over the intercom for the whole school to hear. Purvis was so excited. She finally got the chance to read for everyone, and they could see how good she was.

“I was nervous at first, because I was just a little shy. It got better because my principal was there with me and I didn’t see a crowd since I read it over the intercom,” she said.

Her mother was able to hear her read the second day of her intercom performance, because Purvis was sick and her mother had to take her to school to read. “I went to school in my pajamas to read the book, and then I went home.”

Her mother, has been a big influence on her daughter’s education, having her read and do assignments at home even before she was in school.I’ve always learned at home,” she said.  She loved to collect Junie B. Jones books as a child. Her mother would require that she read and write a summary of one book before she was allowed to purchase the next.

Purvis was born in Jackson, Miss., April 16, 2001, but moved to Sacramento, Calif., soon after she was born. Although she doesn’t remember much about her life in Sacramento, she still remembers passing over the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge to go visit her aunt. Purvis moved back to Jackson around age 3, and has been living here since.

The Murrah High School sophomore has always been interested in reading and writing, and was reading as much as she could even at the young age of 5. Purvis’ childhood was filled with stories of family and reading, and overall was a happy childhood. She said she spent a lot of her time with her mom going on walks for charities that support awareness for AIDS and breast cancer. However, on one of those walks, Purvis ended up falling and hitting her head so hard she had to wear gauze on her forehead for several days afterward. The night of her fall, Purvis said her mom wouldn’t let her go to sleep for fear of a possible concussion, but she was really tired and had trouble staying up.

A big fan of animals, Purvis has had several in her lifetime, including a dog named Butcher who could jump over the family fence, several goldfish that she won at local fairs “that ended up eating each other,” a guinea pig that only lasted a day before she took it back to the store for biting her, and a bird that died. Although she has had so many animals, her favorite animals are still dogs.

“I’m just a naturally caring person, so having to take care of an animal is just fun to me,” Purvis said. “I just love taking care of animals.”

The teenager plans on working hard and achieving her goal of establishing a medical career as a nurse practitioner. She’s going to keep on living her life and doing her best, and hopefully the Youth Media Project will be a big part of her future, she says.