At Age 15, Emory Pruitt, Becomes Clark Atlanta University’s Youngest Student


ATLANTA, Ga., (Nov. 5, 2020) — This year has forced everyone to adjust to new realities and overcome challenges that few had envisioned. Against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, a divisive election and a racial awakening in the U.S., 15-year-old Emory Pruitt was also navigating a life change that most young people don’t face until much later -- her first year as a college student.


Only 15-years-old at the time, the Hendersonville, Tenn. student enrolled in Clark Atlanta University in Fall 2020 as one of the youngest students in the HBCU’s history and the youngest student in recent memory. Although she graduated high school early with a 3.7 GPA, Pruitt’s path to college was marked by challenges. At her hometown high school, she was mocked for being a young Black woman who dared to dream big.

But the racism and adversity -- along with strong family support -- only strengthened Pruitt’s resolve. “It actually was the dedication and my family that pushed me each day,” said Pruitt, now 16. “I should thank the people that doubted me; that just made me work even harder.”  

“I should thank the people that doubted me; that just made me work even harder.” —  Emory Pruitt, 16-year-old Clark Atlanta University Student

Karen Pruitt, Emory’s single mother, eventually enrolled her daughter in online classes at Penn Foster High School, a decision which she believes allowed Emory to focus on her studies and block out the noise. 

“I know that this was the best choice to protect her and her feelings; no one should have to defend the color of their skin,” said Pruitt.  

On her daughter’s acceptance to Clark Atlanta University, Pruitt added, “words would not be able to describe how thrilled and excited she was to have come across a dream come true.” That dream was made even sweeter when Emory’s brother Elijah Pruitt was also accepted into Clark Atlanta University for the 2020 school year.

No stranger to online learning, Emory is adjusting to life as a student at Clark Atlanta University, which made the early call to move to fully remote learning before the 2020-21 academic year began. University President Dr. George T. French, Jr. felt an even greater moral responsibility to keep students, faculty and staff safe by implementing a comprehensive plan rooted in science and medical expert advice.  

“We are honored that this exceptional young woman chose Clark Atlanta University to continue her studies and we look forward to supporting her through all of her endeavors,” said Lorri Saddler, Associate Vice President/Dean of Admissions. “Ms. Pruitt has already accomplished so much in just 16 years and we know she’ll continue to build on her successes.” 

While it’s still uncertain whether Clark Atlanta will resume in-person instruction for Spring 2021, one thing is clear: A student as hard-working, intelligent and resilient as Emory Pruitt will be ready to adapt to whatever comes next.

About Clark Atlanta University   

Clark Atlanta University was formed with the consolidation of Atlanta University and Clark College, both of which hold unique places in the annals of African-American history. Atlanta University, established in 1865 by the American Missionary Association, was the nation’s first institution to award graduate degrees to African-Americans. Clark College, established four years later in 1869, was the nation’s first four-year liberal arts college to serve a primarily African-American student population. Today, with nearly 4,000 students, CAU is the largest of the four institutions (CAU, Morehouse College, Spelman College and Morehouse School of Medicine) that comprise the Atlanta University Center Consortium. It is also the largest of the 37-member UNCF institutions. For more information, please contact Jolene Butts-Freeman at (404) 880-8000 or