When 14-year-old chemistry major Natasha Goss walked into the office of Dave Newport, the director of the Environmental Center, he knew that it was more than just her young age that made her special.
“What I remember most about her is what she said to me the first time I met her when she came in to tell me she was going to work for me,” Newport said. “She said, ‘I really like homework.’”
Newport describes Goss as being extraordinary.
“She’s prodigious,” Newport said. “She and another grad student were the team that got our STARS report done last year.”
In a six-month process, Goss along with another graduate student teamed up to implement STARS at CU, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System for institutions of higher learning, aiding in the CU’s achievement in being the first university to rate “gold.”
Newport said he credits the program’s success to Goss.
“She literally put it on her back and got it done,” Newport said. “It’s just an unbelievable amount of work.”
Newport said he sees Goss going places in life.
“I feel like just giving her my resume and saying, ‘In 10 years, when you’re president, remember me,’” Newport said.
Upon her entrance to CU in the fall of 2009, and being only 13 years old, Goss immediately got involved with the Environmental Center.
“She quickly rose up to being [on the] CUSG Environmental Board and she will be the co-chair of the Board next year,” Newport said.
Goss, now a sophomore, is progressively making her mark at CU through her academics as well as her work with the Environmental Center, despite the fact that she is significantly younger than her peers.
Goss said her unique journey through academia started in Anchorage, Alaska where she was enrolled in a Montessori school and ended up skipping second grade.
“I ended up skipping second grade and then a year or two later we moved down to Colorado to be closer to family,” Goss said.
After being home-schooled, Goss said she and her parents made the decision to enroll her is public school.
“I was home-schooled for a year and my parents and I decided it would be much better and more fun if I was to go to a regular school,” Goss said.
From there, Goss enrolled at Silver Creek High School at the age of eight. It was in this environment, Goss said, where she noticed the difference between herself and her classmates.
“I was 9 years old as a sophomore at Silver Creek,” Goss said. “I had fewer things in common with people my age but everyone was so very sweet and so inclusive.”
Goss said that as she adapted to her new environment she found that the age gap between herself and her peers did not matter.
“As I got older I found that I had a lot more in common with people in my grade, than people who were actually the same age as me so I just started hanging out with my peer group at school,” Goss said.
After completing four years at Silver Creek, Goss enrolled at CU and began her freshman year at 13 as a chemistry major.
Upon her entrance, Goss said she immediately got involved with programs on campus, specifically working with the Environmental Center.
“I started as a sustainability project intern when I first enrolled at CU,” Goss said. “I worked on a couple of general projects assessing sustainability around the university.”
Through meeting with the director, Dave Newport, Goss said she progressively worked her way up to the Environmental Board.
“I sat in on meetings for a few months and at the end of the year there were a few vacancies on the Board so I interviewed and I became a voting member,” Goss said.
As a campus sustainability intern, Goss said she has the opportunity to get involved with the Environmental Center’s projects.
She and Linda Giudice, a mid-career graduate student in environmental studies, were chosen by the Environmental Center director to implement the STARS program at CU.
Giudice said she enjoys working with Goss on the STARS program.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure,” Giudice said. “I work in partnership with Natasha and I find the relationship to be extraordinarily interesting. I would say that we’ve worked really well together.”
Giudice said that her six-month project in implementing the STARS program at CU with Goss has been a learning experience for herself as well.
“Sometimes it’s very interesting to take a step back and see where she is in her life,” Giudice said. “To see how she brings to the table her genius, and her level of maturity that you don’t necessarily see in young people, especially at the age of fourteen.”
Giudice said that aside from Goss’ intellectual abilities, her ability to relate to people is beyond her years as well.
“She’s an extraordinary young person and I just can imagine her doing amazing things in her life,” Giudice said. ”She has some very practical sensibilities about caring for people. She has a blend of everything.”
Giudice said that their age gap allows them to exchange different perspectives, but does not take away from Goss’ professional manner and credibility.
“Because she is younger I don’t think she wants to be treated any differently than you would treat a professional relationship,” Giudice said.
Giudice said that her experience working with the Environmental Center has been so enjoyable in many ways because of working with Goss.
“It’s been a gift to me that director of the Environmental Center put us together because it has really enriched the entire experience that I’ve had at the university and certainly working at the Environmental Center,” Giudice said.
When asked if she ever regretted the fact that she was much younger than her school peers, Goss said no.
“I never really thought that I missed out on much,” Goss said. “I actually have thought about it quite a bit. I’ve wondered, well, my experience is a little bit different by definition. But I don’t see much that has been different and if it has been different I think it’s for the better.”
Unlike the majority of college students, Goss has yet to experience life in the dorms, because she finds she is still a bit young to be living on her own. She said that she enjoys life at home with her family.
“I do have friends in my classes,” Goss said. “I’m involved in a lot of extracurricular programs and other activities at CU. I pretty much have the same opportunities as everyone else does.”
Aside from her involvement in programs at CU, Goss said she takes time to relax by spending time with friends and family as well as participating in other activities.
“I’ve been doing karate since I was nine and I’m a brown belt now,” Goss said. “I’ve grown up with a lot of people there. It’s a fun thing to do and I practice a couple days a week after school.”
This summer, Goss said she intends on doing a Global Seminar study abroad in Australia.
“I’m getting a scholarship through the Norlin Scholars Program to go to Australia to study ecology,” Goss said. “It’s going to be great fun.”
In regards to where she wants life to take her, Goss said that she plans on going to graduate school in the field of chemistry, but from there she is unsure.
“I haven’t decided exactly where I want to go and what I want to do as a profession,” Goss said. “I’m thinking about doing something in water chemistry or hydrology, and eventually becoming a faculty member at a university, teaching and doing research.”
Although she hasn’t charted her future just yet, she said that she is confident that her experiences will aid her along the way.
“What being younger has sort of taught me is that people do have different perspectives coming from different situations in life, and the more you see, the better you can appreciate that,” Goss said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Nora Keating at Nora.firstname.lastname@example.org.