By LOU PONSI     4/16/2024

At the age of 11, Bryson Bisuna was enrolled at St. Serra Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita – a typical path for many of his contemporaries.

Yet Bisuna’s path was anything but typical. Because at the same time, he was enrolled and graduated Magna cum Laude from Irvine Valley with an associate degree in computer science. Then it was on to UC San Diego where, in one year, Bisuna earned bachelor’s degree in mathematics- computer science.

He was 15.

Bryson Bisuna has the distinction of being “gifted.”

While the word can be used in a variety of ways, the National Association of Gifted Children defines a gifted student as one who can “perform—or have the capability to perform—at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains.”

Now, at age 17, Bisuna is qualified to take the exam required to become a certified public accountant and is on a trajectory to earn a Ph.D in computer science.

But Bisuna’s journey is not as typical as that of his academically gifted peers. He has decided to temporarily veer off course towards and go in the opposite direction … back to high school.

Bisuna is currently a junior at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano and plans to remain there through senior year, when he’ll walk in the graduation with fellow JSerra seniors.

At first, his counselor at JSerra and even his parents wondered why Bisuna, a member of Mensa and a Davidson Young Scholar, would want to go to high school.

But it all made perfect sense to Bisuna, whose rationale for wanting to attend high school wasn’t totally related to academics.

He simply wanted to experience life as a high school student.

“The next step that my parents wanted was for me to move on to a doctorate or a Ph.D program,” Bisuna said. “I didn’t feel like I was ready to work closely with a professor who was far more experienced than me, because I didn’t feel like I had the social maturity to express what I was thinking and any problems I had. And I felt like high school is the best place to mature socially so I’m ready for the Ph.D.”

Along with taking honors classes, Bisuna is enrolled in the Law Magnet Program at JSerra and is a member of the Speech and Debate Club.

He’s joined other clubs as well, tried his hand at beach volleyball and gone on school retreats.

“I have friends and I enjoy being around them,” he said. “And the clubs, I enjoy going to those.”

Olivia Huie, director of academic and college counseling at JSerra, meets with all new transfer students to help them determine the proper classes and curriculum to match their academic level.

In her 16 years at JSerra, Huie said Bisuna is the first student she’s worked with who enrolled in high school after already possessing a college degree.

“It really showed maturity at such a young age and just the fact that he had a lot of self-awareness about the need to grow and develop maturity-wise and also in other areas that he’s not as well-versed in,” Huie said.

The counselor also admired Bisuna’s willingness to try activities that were outside of his comfort zone.

“He could have easily done engineering or math, but he made a decision to go the law magnet route and I was very impressed by that,” Huie said.

Since he blends in so well with his classmates, Beth Waterman, Bisuna’s teacher for AP Environmental Science, only recently discovered he had a college degree.

“I think he has a bunch of buddies in the class,” Waterman said. “I think they have good chemistry, which means a lot in a class, because we have fun. There are quite a few bright kids in that class, which is part of what makes it fun.”

Bisuna said his faith has also grown stronger at JSerra, mainly through participation in Faith Formation, where students are encouraged to develop a personal relationship with Christ and the Church through weekly school Masses, Eucharistic Adoration and other activities.

“I feel like I’m praying a lot more than I was prior to when I went to JSerra,” said Bisuna, who is also an altar server at St. Kilian Catholic Church in Mission Viejo.

Outside of school, Bisuna works at Mathnasium tutoring middle and high school students in math.

He has also earned his black belt in karate and plays the piano and drums.

“We were sort of not leaning for him coming back to high school because we thought it was a step backward,” Bernard Bisuna (Bryson’s father) said. “But he convinced us. We looked back on our own high school experience. High school would also give him time to mature further, discover other interests and have experiences that can never be replicated once he is a grown up.”