When the term “non-traditional students” comes up, it’s typically meant to refer to students who go back to school later in life, or that have families when they begin attending college. But the students in South Texas College’s Dual Enrollment Academies Program are giving that term a new meaning. They are high school students who devoted the last two years of their high school experience to also being college students and earning associate degrees.
On May 14, 2011, 104 of those students made their college dreams reality when they walked STC’s graduation stage to receive their associate degrees in either biology or engineering.
“It feels awesome to graduate from the academy because I’ve taken classes that I would never have taken at the high school and I got to meet people from different schools,” said STC Dual Enrollment Engineering Academy and Sharyland High School graduate Leonardo Gomide. “I learned how to manage my time with college classes and what engineering really is all about. I’m going to The University of Texas at Austin in the fall to continue my studies in electrical engineering and I know I am well prepared for the challenges ahead.”
The students were selected for the program during their sophomore year in high school based on grades, community involvement, service and leadership. They had to maintain high grades and mange their regular high school curriculum in addition to a full load of college courses. Students also took summer classes at the college and participated in service projects, internships, college tours and group study sessions and seminars.
“I really enjoyed every single moment of it, even though some of classes were really difficult and we had to juggle high school and college,” said STC Dual Enrollment Medical Science Academy and Weslaco High School graduate Gabriela Ontiveros. “My family is really excited because I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college before high school. That’s so emotional for us all. I am attending UT-Austin in the fall, where I received a full scholarship. I hope to be just 21 by the time I enter medical school. What an achievement!”
Ontiveros joins many of her classmates in receiving large scholarship offers. In total, this year’s academy students combined have been awarded more than $1.3M in scholarships. They will use the monies to attend colleges across the state including Baylor University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas – Dallas and The University of Texas – Pan American.
“The 104 Dual Enrollment Academy Program students graduating this year marks our highest number of graduates since the inception of our program, which began in fall 2005,” said STC Dual Enrollment Academies Coordinator Lucia Castaneda. “Since then, we have grown dramatically and graduated a total of 294 students. These students are truly remarkable. Their sacrifices and dedication to their education is truly amazing and does not go unrecognized. Our academy team is extremely proud of all our students and we congratulate each and every one of them for such a great accomplishment.”
For additional information about STC’s Dual Enrollment Academies Program call 956-872-2607 or 956-872-3499.