In 2009, 15-year-old Joy Womack moved across the globe to Moscow after being handpicked to attend the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy. “I begged my parents to let me go,” she told a reporter from the New York Times in 2010. “I had never been to a foreign country.”
After suffering through injuries and financial issues that threatened her stay in Russia, Womack, now 17, is set to graduate from the Bolshoi this May, becoming the first American to do so.
According to her website, Womack began her ballet career at the age of three and has since trained in several studios in California such as the Marat Daukeyev School of Ballet, the Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet, and the Westside Academy of Ballet. In 2006, the Womack family moved to Austin and Womack began training at the Austin School of Classical Ballet.
It seems that everything—including talent—is bigger in Texas. Here four other Texas wunderkinds who’ve made national and international headlines for their achievements in recent years:
Monica Thieu, 18, Dallas
This February, Thieu became the youngest Jeopardy College Championship winner ever since the competition first began in 1989. A student at the Texas Academy of Math and Science in Denton, Thieu triumphed over older students, including a senior from Vanderbilt University.
Param Jaggi, 17, Plano
In 2011, Jaggi made Forbes “30 under 30” list of energy innovators with his invention of “The Algae-Mobile 3: Bioactive Energy and Carbon Dioxide Filteration in the Exhaust of a Car,” a device that uses algae to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. His invention was selected from over 1,500 entries in the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair to win the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award.
Javier Fernandez-Han, 17, The Woodlands
Fernandez-Han also made last year’s Forbes “30 under 30” list for his invention of VERSATILE, a system that converts food scraps and sewage into food, fuel, fertilizer, and sanitation using algae. VERSATILE won the 2009 Invent Your World Challenge. Additionally, Fernandez-Han is the organizer of TedxYouth@TheWoodlands, an independent TED event.
Lucas Laborde, 21, San Antonio
When he was 17, Laborde converted a gas-powered car into an electric car. This project required over $10,000, about 150 hours of work, and lots of creativity.