Dual graduations on the rise due to program launched at Highland Park

The Amarillo College dual-credit Diplomas & Degrees program has been changing the game for top-performing area high schoolers for a long time now, and it all began at Highland Park High School.

This marks the 14th year of Highland Park’s inclusion in the program that enables students to receive associate degrees from AC weeks in advance of attending their high school graduation, and Highland Park has 8 AC graduates this year.

AC’s spring commencement ceremonies are at 3 and 7 p.m. Friday, May 12 at the Amarillo Civic Center, and, including the 8 graduates from Highland Park, a total of 54 area high school seniors are slated to take part in the festivities.

Diplomas & Degrees allows qualified ninth-graders to enroll in dual credit classes through AC, with the opportunity to earn a full associate degree by the time they complete their senior year in high school. They can then transfer their AC credits to a four-year university – entering at the midpoint – straight out of high school.

Today, the Diplomas & Degrees partnership includes 18 area high schools in a number of school districts, but back in 2009, the program was piloted with only Highland Park onboard. Four years later, in the spring of 2013, four Highland Park seniors became the first area high school graduates to receive their associate degrees at AC weeks prior to collecting their high school diplomas.

Now, 10 years later – counting this spring’s 8 graduates – Highland Park has produced 46 successful Diplomas & Degrees graduates. Moreover, thanks to buy-in from many other schools, a grand total of 206 area high school students have successfully completed the AC program to date; and 192 additional students are currently immersed in the Diplomas & Degrees pipeline.

“At Highland Park High School, we are very thankful for our partnership with Amarillo College,” said veteran school counselor Rala Underwood. “The Diplomas & Degrees program has allowed our students to challenge themselves academically and emotionally.

“This program has prepared our students with a strong foundation to be successful at a four-year university,” she said. “Over the last 10 years, the Amarillo College faculty and staff have welcomed our students, guided our students, and prepared our students for success. All graduates of the program are grateful for this opportunity.”

These are the Highland Park students who this spring will receive diplomas from AC, along with their transfer destinations and majors (just as we pointed out for the inaugural graduating cohort of 2013):

  • Mercedes Harton will attend Colorado State University and major in zoology
  • Johnathan Hoang will attend Texas Tech University and major in computer engineering
  • Sarah Hooper will attend University of Texas and major in biochemistry
  • Kierra Kosechata will attend Amarillo College and Austin Community College and major in biology and nursing
  • Johnny Lam will attend University of Texas and major in pre-medicine/neuroscience
  • Braylee Lewis will attend Texas Tech University and major in chemical engineering
  • Tiffany Lunde will attend West Texas A&M University and major in education
  • Binh Nguyen will attend University of Texas and major in economics

Speaking for the group, Sarah Hooper said: “Participating in such a great program has been a pleasure these past four years. Diplomas & Degrees has allowed us to be better students, with challenges and classes that pushed us past our limits. We definitely recommend this program to future students.

“Amarillo College allows you to be ahead of your peers, offering various opportunities and knowledge as we begin our life after high school.”

For more information about AC’s Dual Credit program, including Diplomas & Degrees, please contact Sandra De La Rosa, director of secondary program, at 806-371-5214.