High School Senior Earns Associate's Degree
By Josselyn Schick
Breanne Morgan, the valedictorian of Blackford High School’s Class of 2019, will be starting college with her Associate in General Studies (AGS) already completed. Morgan’s dedication to online and dual credit courses — college classes offered to young students — allowed her to receive her degree before graduating high school.
Morgan’s first step in receiving her degree was talking to her guidance counselor, Valerie Janowski-Human. Blackford High School has teamed up with Ivy Tech Community College to offer dual credit classes and online college courses, so counselor Janowski-Human set Morgan on the right path.
“There are so many opportunities and so many teachers and staff who are very happy to help any way they can,” Janowski-Human noted. She recommends that students talk to their counselors like Morgan did and take advantage of the honors and dual credit classes offered by BHS. With the right attitude and the right credits, young students could be well on their way to earning their AGS like Morgan or their Statewide Transfer General Education Core (STGEC).
The STGEC allows students to “start as a sophomore,” according to Ivy Tech’s official website. It is a 30-hour credit block that can be transferred to any four-year public college in Indiana. Many students at BHS were able to attain their STGEC during the 2018-2019 school year, which should carve an entire year out of their college experience.
What Morgan earned is a step further than the STGEC. Her AGS would typically be earned through two years of college. That means paying two years of school tuition as well as paying for any necessities on or off campus. Scholarships and financial aid can pull a lot of weight, but it is rare for anyone to complete college without tremendous debt.
This is why high schoolers like Morgan are using their high school years to focus on college credits. Dual credit courses are one of the most popular ways to start earning college credits early. Through these classes, students earn high school credit for their diploma while simultaneously earning college credit. Dual credit classes at BHS are supported through Ivy Tech and taught by a high school instructor. They are taken like regular high school classes, and students only have to purchase or rent their own textbook.
“If a student wanted to take classes through any other college, such as IWU, Taylor, or Ball State, we would be happy to work with them and get something set up,” Janowski-Human added.
Students can also enroll in online college classes that are not offered at BHS. Most classes can be taken during the school year, but Morgan found herself taking summer classes with Ivy Tech in order to obtain her AGS.
She graduated from BHS on June 7, but it wasn’t her first graduation of the year. She graduated from the Ivy Tech Marion Campus on May 17.
“I was inspired to get my associate’s degree in high school because I always felt that I have had to prove myself,” Morgan explained. She believed that, because she was a shy and quiet girl, she was often overlooked.
“Part of it was proving myself and ability to others, but also to myself … Walking across that stage before you get to walk for high school is such an amazing feeling, like, ‘wow, I actually did this!’”
Morgan plans to attend Indiana Wesleyan University where she will study Psychology. She wants to work with people and help them through their problems. Despite her accomplishments, Morgan does confirm that earning her AGS while still attending high school was challenging.
“I took online classes during the summer in addition to my high school classes. I always had a really tough and vigorous work load with dual credit classes and the extra online classes,” Morgan said. “I had to give up some fun things to ensure that I was successful in my classes, but it was worth it in the end.”
The extra classes Morgan took were billed through the dual credit office at BHS, so while she still had to pay for them, they were cheaper than they would have been at a university. She saved a substantial amount of money through BHS. Morgan recommends that others take advantage of this opportunity as well. She said that with proper time management, hard work and self-motivation, it is possible, and it pays off.
“Make sure you leave some time for you and fun things that you enjoy— don’t let all of the work completely consume you,” Morgan said. “If you have a little bit of wiggle room in the classes you can take online, choose classes you are more likely to enjoy.”
BHS students can contribute to their future in ways that weren’t possible before. Taking dual credit classes can chip away the high price of college costs and lessen the workload students face when they first start their secondary education. Whether it’s earning their STGEC or their AGS like Morgan, students at BHS can steer their education in almost any direction they choose.