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Around the South Bay

Torrance Youth Tackles Shakespeare at 3, College at 13

November 07, 1985|DONNA ST. GEORGE

At 6 months, Nick Mikulicich was already talking in complete sentences. At 13 months, he was spelling words like hippopotamus and rhinoceros. By age 3, the Torrance youth had read plays by Shakespeare and books on Greek mythology.

When his IQ was tested at age 5, he scored 180--far above the 100 that is considered average.

"Nick was always surprising people with how much he knew," recalled his mother, Joan Mikulicich. "But no matter where he went, even when he was in diapers, Nick was always reading. He was just the type of child who, from the word go, was off and running."

Indeed, in second grade Nick was tutoring eighth-graders in algebra. In third grade, he was teaching his science class; the instructor said he knew more of the subject than she did. Throughout grammar school, the youth would borrow 30 books at a time from the library and return them--read and sometimes reread--in two or three days.

Among the Mikuliciches and their friends, Nick's persistent intellectual feats have always been impressive. But recently, Nick has begun setting records throughout the South Bay and beyond.

Last spring, while in the seventh grade, Nick was top-ranked in Southern California for his scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test in a national talent search program administered by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The SAT is usually taken by college-bound high school juniors and seniors.

Nick scored in the 99th percentile--accumulating 1,400 points of a possible 1,600--which was made more remarkable by the fact that he had never taken any formal program of accelerated study.

Now a freshman at South High School in Torrance (he skipped eighth grade), the 13-year-old this fall used the test scores to become the youngest person ever to enroll at California State University, Dominguez Hills, school officials say. He attends the university part time, for a Saturday morning philosophy and logic class where many of the other students are old enough to be his parents.

"This year I've been challenged a lot more, which is really fun," said the articulate youth, who, with his brown eyes and sprinkling of freckles, resembles the typical teen-ager more than the stereotypical bookworm.

The college course is a class for which Nick was duly prepared, having already read biographies of several philosophers, including John Locke and Rene Descartes. He is also used to rigorous academic requirements, having this summer completed two high school algebra courses and one geometry course in five weeks of study.

Sitting in the college class last week, Nick demonstrated one of his strongest assets: a keen ability to quickly recall facts. During a class discussion on the logic of punishing a person for attempting suicide, Nick pointed out that in 17th-Century Europe the penalty for attempted suicide was death.

"It was a really neat sidelight," said Prof. Rudy Vanterpool, who noted that on the first exam Nick scored the second-highest grade, a low A, of the 99 students in the professor's two logic classes.

"I think Nick has a historical view of many subjects, and I think that's a good quality, to see things in a larger background," Vanterpool said. "I'm very impressed with his participation. . . . Obviously, he is a very bright student."

But being bright has also presented some difficulties.

"He was frustrated before in school sometimes," Nick's mother said. "He was doing things in seventh grade math that he could have done when he was 2 or 3. After a while, he was getting so bored."

His father, Nick Mikulicich Sr., added, "There's a blessing there, but there are also some drawbacks because he's still young emotionally."

For that reason, Nick's parents turned down about a dozen offers last spring from out-of-state colleges that wanted to enroll their son full time at age 12.

"I wanted to give him a normal--if there is such a thing as normal--childhood with dances and football games and proms," Joan Mikulicich said. "He is still a young man. I want him to enjoy his childhood."

Nick's parents are also quick to point out that their son, who has often been proclaimed a genius by those who meet him, is a well-rounded youngster, in many ways like his high-school classmates.

He likes traveling, swimming and tennis. He plays the piano almost every day. Nick, who eventually wants to be biologist, attended first through seventh grades at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic School in Redondo Beach, where he was elected to the student government.

Nick's greatest devotion, he says with great exuberance, is collecting sports memorabilia. He memorizes sports statistics and has 30,000 baseball cards and 60 autographed balls. His favorite teams are those from Los Angeles: the Dodgers, the Clippers and the Lakers.

"When he goes into anything, he goes into it whole hog," said his father, a deputy district attorney in Torrance.

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