This week, Venerina Costanza is set to graduate summa cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in health services administration — and she’s done it much faster than it typically takes.

The 18-year-old has an impressive academic resume for her age. At 17, she graduated from high school and Daytona State College at the same time, receiving both her high-school diploma and an associate degree thanks to dual enrollment and online homeschooling. There’s also the fact that she skipped seventh grade, allowing her to finish high school early.

Next, Costanza plans to pursue her master’s degree in biomedical sciences with the goal of continuing on to medical school to achieve her ultimate goal of becoming a medical doctor by 25.

Constanza keeps busy outside of class, as well. She runs her own nonprofit to assist with the homeless youth crisis, and she competed for Miss Florida Teen earlier this year after securing the title of Miss Port Orange Teen. She also served as president of UCF’s Golden Key International Honor Society and participated in UCF’s Honors Undergraduate Thesis program through the Burnett Honors College.

“I feel a sense of empowerment having accomplished so much,” she says. “Being Miss Port Orange Teen, I want to empower young girls to work hard and fight for their goals, and to never let anything stand in their way. That’s been my goal for my own life — to just keep going and graduate and become a medical doctor. It has been a little challenging, but I’ve persevered.”

Part of her goal to help others involved creating her nonprofit, the Enough is Enough Foundation, which guided her undergraduate thesis, through the creation of a resource guide to help homeless youth find access to food, shelter, clothing and healthcare in her community.

“It’s just so sad to see the statistics of youth who are homeless, so I want to really help my community and the entire state of Florida with eliminating youth homelessness in any way possible,” she says.

Above all else, Costanza says she continues to challenge herself because she wants to inspire and help others — including other Knights as she has always had a connection to UCF and wanted to go here.

“My parents are alumni,” she says, “The main reason was I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I’ve heard a lot of UCF stories, and I also knew it was a great school.”

Despite being a young graduate, Costanza says she never felt out of place.

“I honestly always felt welcome,” Costanza says. “I completed my associate degree online as well through Daytona State College, and in high school I was online as well, so I was used to the online system.”

While she completed her degree fully online, Costanza’s involvement outside of the classroom helped her feel connected to UCF and make friends. She visited campus to host Golden Key events and joined in for some homecoming activities like attending the homecoming football game.

She is considering switching to an in-person modality wherever she decides to go for her master’s degree — potentially here at UCF, although she hasn’t yet decided where she will pursue her future degrees.

“I’m so excited to graduate and walk on the UCF stage,” she says. “It’s just so awesome to think I’m only 18, and I’m going to have my bachelor’s degree. There’s going to be a lot of emotions, I’m sure, especially for my parents.”

From taking action to help eradicate youth homelessness to her education in healthcare administration, Costanza’s impending graduation brings her one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a medical doctor. She hopes her story will inspire other UCF students to be persistent in achieving their goals.

“Never let anything stop you,” Costanza says. “Always pursue your dreams, your passions and your goals, and knock down any barriers that are challenging you. Don’t let anything — like your age or your gender — limit you.”