BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kirsten Jimenez-Gray has always done things a little differently.

“At the time, there were very few I knew who were doing the same thing I was doing,” Jimenez-Gray said.

The time was five years ago.

“I actually decided to start doing dual enrollment classes in the eighth grade,” Jimenez-Gray said.

As if middle school wasn’t hard enough, Jimenez-Gray took her first college-level class at just 12 years old. Bakersfield College’s American Sign Language class hooked her, and she hasn’t looked back.

“There were times she would come out and somebody would tell her she’s too young to be here,” Jimenez-Gray’s father Al said. “She proved (those people) wrong.”

Earlier this month, Kirsten walked the B.C. commencement stage at the age of 17. She admits it wasn’t always easy.

“Of course I’ve had the normal college student experience,” Jimenez-Gray said. “I did, of course, cry and sob behind my computer screen multiple times, and be like why did I enroll myself in this class.”

But she’s put herself that much closer to her dream of opening an orthodontics clinic.

Why orthodontics? Because Jimenez-Gray loves to make people smile.

“If I can help somebody else’s smile change, to make a change in their daily lifestyle to be able to smile and laugh, and make others smile and laugh, I would be beyond grateful to do that,” Jimenez-Gray said.

Jimenez-Gray will be attending Florida A&M University in the fall.