SPRING HILL — Think of any shiftless underachiever, someone with the potential to do extraordinary things who routinely does merely enough to get by — or less.
Joann Gold has the opposite mindset and work ethic.
In 2010, the Spring Hill resident graduated from Springstead High School at age 16 — already armed with an associate's degree in general studies from Pasco-Hernando Community College, which is now a state college.
At 19, Gold this month graduated with two degrees from the University of South Florida: a bachelor of arts in psychology and a bachelor of science in bio-medical science.
She now is studying to communicate fluently in Italian and Spanish, skills she hopes someday will help her while fighting disease overseas.
An only child who early on showed signs of high intelligence, Gold is also a bodybuilder who can sing, play piano and do the cha-cha.
“If there's something you want to do in life, go do it,” she said. “If you want to learn a language, go do it. If you want to learn an instrument, go do it.”
Gold, who juggled full class schedules in college with internships at Absolute Health Care in Spring Hill, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg and Moffitt Cancer Research Center in Tampa, wants to go to medical school, either at the University of Miami or the University of Florida.
“I plan on becoming a doctor or surgeon,” Gold said. “I'm not 100 percent sure if I want to specialize in something, but I'm not sure which field I want to go into. People say if you have an idea of what you want to do when start med school, you change your mind by the time you get out. I want to be a traveling doctor or traveling surgeon in developing or Third World countries.”
Her daughter's achievements and future goals are not a surprise to Gold's mother, Andrea Ingoglia, a rural mail carrier with the U.S. Postal Service.
Ingoglia said Joann exhibited exceptional intelligence from a young age.
“You know how when you're talking around little kids you sometimes have to spell words out, so they don't know what you're talking about?” she said. “I had to spell words backward, or she would catch on to what I was saying.”
While some parents might balk at sending their only child off to college at 16, Ingoglia said she didn't worry.
“I didn't hold her back; that was the key,” she said. “People couldn't believe I would let her go off to a university at 16, but what was I going to do, say that she can't go after doing all that work” in high school?
“You've got to let them fly, because you never know how far they're going to go. Don't hold them back. I gave her a little bit of rope, and she just kept going. She never gave me a reason to pull the rope back.”
At Springstead High, Gold spent most mornings at cheerleading practice, worked a part-time job after school and took college courses at night.
At USF, she tackled full class loads, joined a sorority, started a fitness club, worked as a tutor and volunteered in the nursery at Crosspoint Church in Brooksville on Sundays, which she still enjoys.
“I do well under pressure,” Gold said.
One benefit from handling so much activity for so long was learning to prioritize and find balance, she said.
A priority before starting medical school is to travel to Spain.
“My mom bought me a ticket, so I can go teach English and travel through Europe for a year and a half,” she said. “I hope to enter medical school in the fall of 2015. I just want to experience life before I jump right into school again.”