The outlook is sunny for Amara Leggett, both figuratively and literally.

As central Ohioans shiver in single-digit temperatures, the 16-year-old Leggett and her mother, former central Ohioans, are unpacking to start a new life on the Florida coast, an hour southeast of Orlando.

On Jan. 8, Leggett started as a junior at the Florida Institute of Technology, majoring in computer science.

"The high is probably 78 degrees here," Leggett said Dec. 27.

In mid-December, she graduated from New Albany High School with her diploma and from Columbus State Community College with her associate degree.

"She sets her eyes on something and she keeps going," said her mother, Nadia Leggett. "She's always been like that."

Amara Leggett was able to knock several years off of her education and saved thousands of dollars on college using Ohio's College Credit Plus dual-enrollment program. She planned from the beginning of ninth grade to replace as many high school classes with college courses as possible.

It took a lot of trial and error, the teen said, working with school counselors to figure out what could count for what.

"I liked college more than I liked high school," Leggett said. "It's more about the real world ... I like learning. I like doing homework."

She said the other students at Columbus State didn't judge her for liking school or for her ambition.

"I'm also pretty lucky that my mom's a Realtor, and was able to drive me back and forth all the time," Leggett said. "I realize not all parents are able to do that."

Leggett isn't the first local student to graduate years early because of College Credit Plus. In May, a 15-year-old from Canal Winchester, Danya Hamad, graduated from both Reynoldsburg's BELL Early College Academy high school and from Columbus State.

Hamad started at Capital University in Bexley in the fall to finish her bachelor's degree, in hopes of becoming one of the youngest law students in modern history.

With the exploding popularity of earning high-school and college credits simultaneously, these two young college graduates are unlikely to be the last, said Steve Dackin, an official from Columbus State who helps to manage partnerships between schools and the community college.

Dackin was at the ceremony when Leggett graduated.

Before College Credit Plus was officially launched in 2015-16, Ohio had the similar Post-Secondary Enrollment Option, but it never caught on the way that this program has.

A few major differences are that traditional school districts are required to hold at least one well-publicized informational session for parents and students, and districts are not allowed to deter students who are interested and deemed college-ready.

Some school districts employ teachers with the credentials to teach college classes directly in the high schools. Seventh- and eighth-graders also can participate if they can pass a college-entrance test in the subject area.

Leggett started a blog, ayounglegend.com, to offer parents and their teenagers advice about how to navigate College Credit Plus and aim for early graduation. She also throws in entries about investing and business, biographies of role models and inspirational quotes.

"We started talking college in third grade," her mother said. "I just wanted to expose her to the things that I was never exposed to. I told her to write out her goals ... It's always been my philosophy that the standards we set for our kids are usually lower than what they can accomplish."

Amara Leggett said she's not nervous about starting school so far from Ohio. Instead, she's excited to not be hamstrung by having to align high-school and college credits. Now she can really dig into her major, she said.

A doctorate might be in the cards one day, but that's a long way off. She might take a break after her bachelor's degree, she said. She might start a business. The future is wide open.

When choosing their new home in Florida, Leggett said, they didn't have to think too hard about whether they were moving into a good school district. Those considerations are over.

"We decided to live next to the beach," she said. "We're just going to live here and enjoy the beach."

sgilchrist@dispatch.com

@shangilchrist