MISSION, Texas (KVEO) – A Rio Grande Valley high school student is on his way to becoming the youngest person in the world with a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification.  

At 17 years old, many high school students are wondering what they want to study and do as a career. 

However, Michael Hilton, a junior at Sharyland High School is already years ahead in his career.

He plans on graduating a year early to follow through with his goals, one of which is obtaining the highest-level certification in his field. 

The love for technology is in Hilton’s blood, he says he was inspired to peruse a career in the field by his family. 

“It just kind of stuck with me, so around three or four years was when I took apart my mom’s computer, and I then really started to look into technology further when I was around five years old,” said Hilton.  

Hilton has been working as a Networking Intern and is already a Cisco Certified Network Professional.

Currently, a typical day in Hilton’s life starts with school, then he spends a couple of hours at his internship, and finishes day day by studying for his CCIE exam.

This spring, Hilton is planning on flying to Sydney, Australia to exam for a CCIE certification, and he is getting some financial help along the way to make that happen. Because of the pandemic, United States testing sites are currently unavailable.  

Hilton created the fundraiser, ‘Help me become one of the youngest CCIEs,’ in September 2019 to raise money for test expenses. It was not until the fundraiser was seen by INE CEO, Richard McLain that Hilton’s dream became a reality.  

INE is an online IT training company.  

“Michael not only took the first step, but the first five steps towards the goal, and I think that’s what [showed] this person is really determined. I think that determination is what stuck out to me to me, to say lets help out this guy,” said McLain.

McLain was impressed with how far along Hilton was in his career and offered to sponsor his next step; he is paying for Hilton’s study material and exam.  

“The CCIE really is like the Ph.D. of the internet,” explained McLain. “It really takes engineers years and years of in-field to really prepare for it, so to be able to not only prep for that but get ready at his age, it’s just amazing.” 

At age 17, Hilton is the youngest certification candidate in the world. For him, it is just the next step in his career.  

“There’s just a lot of things to balance. There’s a huge blueprint of things to learn and master before you go and take the exam, and it’s going pretty well but sometimes it can be a challenge,” said Hilton.  

Hilton thanks his family, mentors and all those who helped him get to where he is at. He offers some advice to those pursuing their careers.

“Bests thing to do is talk to those who have specific knowledge, and ask them how they got to where they are, what type of resources do they use,” said Hilton.