MESA, Ariz. — At just 11 years old, calculus homework is no match for Monty Hernandez.
While other kids his age are hoping to make the middle school basketball team, Monty is preparing to enter his freshman year of college.
"It's very important to study because without studying, you won't make it far," Monty said.
Monty studies a lot. Whether in the car or the stands at his sister's softball game, the Mensa society member puts in the work morning and night.
"I didn't have any idea that at 9 years old, he'd ace a high school chemistry class," said Monty's mom, Danielle Hernandez.
Hernandez says it's been quite the journey for her son.
Monty didn't speak until he was 4 years old. He was diagnosed with autism and began his schooling in special education, but testing would soon send him on a meteoric rise through academic levels.
"At first, when I was with people that were older than me, it was weird, but over time it gradually became the norm," Monty said.
After years of difficulty with strength, agility and fine motor skills, Monty was diagnosed with a connective tissue syndrome. The condition requires him to need special accommodations for his learning.
"It explains his low muscle tone, his joint pain, needing a scribe sometimes to write — especially in these math classes where the problems are getting so long, he has to write so much," Hernandez said.
He continues to push through at every turn. Sadly, doctors also diagnosed Monty with ascending aortic aneurism, a heart condition. Until doctors can do surgery to insert a prosthetic aorta, it's a condition that can lead to sudden death.
"At any point in time I have to be there to say, 'It's time to go to Phoenix Children's, call his cardiologist,'" Hernandez said.
But for Monty, now a senior at Skyline High School in Mesa, Arizona, the prospect of death doesn't phase him. It perhaps even emboldens him, especially with so much left to achieve.
"If I'm going to die, I at least try my hardest to do my life goal. I don't want to go out without a bang," Monty said. "I want to become a pediatric neurologist so I can help kids who aren't as fortunate and who need help from doctors to reach their goals."
Paying for Monty's college education will be difficult. His mother has helped him apply for many scholarships, but most require students to be 18 or older.
They're asking the public to help fund Monty's dream by donating to his future education costs.
This story was originally published by Cameron Polom on Scripps station KNXV in Phoenix.