Donning caps and gowns and walking across a stage, 11 Crothersville High School seniors recently accepted their associate degrees.

Wait a minute … high school students already have a college degree? Yes, it’s true.

On May 27, they will walk across another stage to receive their high school diploma.

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Through the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative, students can take dual-credit courses taught by qualified high school teachers at Austin and Crothersville and professors with Ivy Tech Community College. They receive an associate degree in general studies after earning at least 60 credit hours.

In the past four years, 32 Crothersville students have received degrees. By doing so, they will spend less time and money in earning a higher college degree — possibly a year or two less and between $30,000 and $40,000.

“I generally wanted to do it because of the money it would save, and we’ll graduate quicker,” senior Marissa Carter said. “I think I’m going to have to go (to college) for three years, so it’s going to knock off a whole year for me.”

Having that opportunity in high school meant a lot to Carter.

“It makes me feel good. It’s like a self-esteem booster,” she said.

“It’s a lot of work, and it’s really stressful, but it really is worth it in the end. If (other students) have the opportunity to do it, they should really jump on it and just take a hold of it.”

When David Schill took over as principal in the 2006-07 school year, he said, the state began requiring high schools to offer some type of dual-credit program.

Schill and Superintendent Terry Goodin talked to Ivy Tech officials and felt it was the best program because of one main reason — it’s free for the students. The school has to pay an annual fee of about $14,000 to cover the costs of Ivy Tech professors, but Schill said the school board always has approved it because the members see the value in the program.

Crothersville and Ivy Tech officials decided an associate degree in general studies would work best because regardless of what a student studies in college, all of the dual-credit classes they took in high school would count for something at the next level.

Five years ago, the program began at Crothersville, but those seniors couldn’t earn a degree. They only were able to earn some additional dual-credit courses to carry into college.

Since then, students from Crothersville and Austin have been able to earn associate degrees. Most of them have been able to complete college early, but Schill said some have stayed longer to earn a separate degree.

This school year marked the first time sophomores could apply, giving students more time to earn their credits and not have to compact classes on top of their high school subjects, Schill said.

Applications for the program are accepted after the school year starts. Students then have to pass the language arts and math portions of Ivy Tech’s ACCUPLACER entrance exam. If a student passes just one section, he or she can still take college classes and earn credits but won’t receive a degree. Instead, they would receive a technical certificate.

“The one thing that I always tell the kids, ‘Fill out the form, apply for it, do your best on the testing because they can never take that college credit away from you,’” Schill said.

Ivy Tech’s pathway for the early college program requires a certain number of classes in language arts, math, social sciences and humanities. Then there are electives provided at Crothersville and Austin that students can take toward their college major. To earn credits, students have to earn a C or better.

“The biggest thing they have to learn right from the start is how to study,” Schill said. “These classes are geared at a higher level. They are true college-level classes, and they have to learn that. Once they learn how to study, everything else kind of fits into time because part of the study aspect is time management. Those types of things kind of fall in place for them.”

Several of the Crothersville seniors noted the difficulty of the college-level classes.

“College is hard enough for a full-time college student, but you’re trying to do high school and college at the same time and sports and extracurriculars on top of that,” Eli Mollet said.

Encouragement from classmates and study groups helped Mollet get through the program.

“It definitely made us come together as a family,” he said. “I think it just shows a lot about the ambition of everybody and shows that they are willing to go out and work hard to get something that they are striving for.”

Senior Jonathan Pearce said since some of his older friends earned degrees, he thought it would be a good experience.

“It was extremely stressful, very time-consuming and a lot naps,” he said, smiling. “It was a very difficult experience, but I’m very glad that I was able to do it and participate in it. It’s basically a head-start in careers and for college. There are other kids that are going to (college), and they have to go for four years. Now, a lot of us only have to go for two.”

Senior Tyler Luedeman said he initially wasn’t a big fan of the classes.

“It was a struggle to get all of my work in on time because I’m kind of a procrastinator,” he said. “But my friends helped me a lot through the courses and helped me keep track of my work.”

Now that he has his degree in hand, Luedeman realizes it was all worth it.

“It’s definitely a big blessing to be able to complete the courses and have my associate degree going into college,” he said. “It’s an honor.”

Senior Alisha Basil said she also was a little unsure about the program at first, but her parents helped her determine it was worth pursuing.

“My dad talked to me, and he’s the one that wanted me to do it all along because he said that it was just going to be a great opportunity for me, so I took it,” she said.

Even though the classes were stressful and resulted in a lot of late nights doing discussion boards and tests, Basil said, everything came together when she participated in the Ivy Tech graduation ceremony at Columbus North High School.

“They asked us who was the first out of your family to graduate, and I had the honor to stand up and say I graduated college out of my family first,” she said. “I didn’t think I could actually do it, and then when I put my mind to it, I actually did do it, and I finished with my associate degree.”

Classmate Claudia Henry said the accomplishment sunk in at graduation, too.

“It didn’t really hit me until the speaker was like, ‘Move your tassel to the other side,’ and then everybody started clapping, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I did it,’” she said.

Henry said she’s glad she took advantage of the opportunity during high school.

“Not everybody gets this opportunity, and I feel like it would have not been a smart idea if I hadn’t taken it,” she said. “You don’t get a lot of sleep, there’s a lot of homework and it’s really stressful, but it’s worth it.”

Senior Taylor Blake said she also was fortunate to earn an associate degree in high school.

“It was really challenging,” she said. “It’s just something that you have to manage your time, and then it works out OK. But if you don’t manage your time, then it gets pretty difficult.”

Senior Cassidy Mantz said now that she has been through the program and earned her degree, she’s prepared for college.

“It’s a little different from high school. The professors are definitely more on to you about stuff,” she said. “I’ll definitely know what to expect from the professors (in college) and what the professors expect from me.”

Seniors Torri Boldery and Derrick Maxie both had older siblings go through the program in high school.

Boldery’s sister, Storm, is in her first year at Hanover College and has been able to take more classes toward her major.

Boldery said having her sister’s guidance on how to handle the program and also having her classmates on her side made a difference.

“We’ve always talked about it being the hardest thing that we’ve ever had to do in high school, and I completely agree with it,” she said. “Even with the juniors, I talk about it with them now about how we lost so much sleep, but it was absolutely worth it.”

After talking to his sister, mother, teachers and friends, Maxie was encouraged to apply for the program.

“It really is a struggle managing your time and losing sleep, but it really is worth it,” he said. “Not only were the classes really stressful, but I also got to meet some new friends, as well.”

Since some of his classmates were involved and he would save time and money for college, Maxie knew it was the right move.

“Everybody was always encouraging one another, always helping each other out,” he said. “I really enjoyed being with my fellow classmates and just being with them until the end.”

Schill attended the graduation at Columbus and said it was a heartwarming moment.

“I just happened to sit where the degree candidates were coming in, and the kids saw me right away as they were coming in, and I was met with huge smiles,” he said. “Then when I heard my kids’ names announced as they walked across the stage, you just about pop three buttons off your shirt because you’re like, ‘Those are mine.’”

This year’s class of 11 was the most for Crothersville in one year.

Even though there could be modifications and upgrades to the program in the future, Schill said, he expects it to continue being an offering at the school.

“We’ve had some kids come here from a few of the other schools around us just to be involved in the program, so that’s a good, positive thing,” he said. “I’m thankful to Dr. Goodin and our school board for allowing us to do this. They could easily say no, and I’m thankful they have the foresight to allow us to get the thing started and then to continue working with it. I foresee nothing but good things for the program.”

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The 11 Crothersville High School seniors recently earning an associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College shared their postsecondary plans.


Alisha Basil;Attend Indiana University Southeast and major in nursing

Torri Boldery;Attend Hanover College

Taylor Blake;Join the U.S. Navy or attend Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus

Marissa Carter;Attend University of Florida and major in business administration with a specialization in horticulture to be a greenhouse owner

Claudia Henry;Attend Manchester University and major in biology and pre-optometry, then transfer to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to be an optometrist

Andrew Jackson;Attend Manchester University

Tyler Luedeman;Attend IUPUC and major in engineering

Cassidy Mantz;Attend IUPUC and major in business management

Derrick Maxie;Attend IUS and major in business management

Eli Mollet;Attend Indiana University Kokomo and study law and play basketball

Jonathan Pearce;Attend IUS and major in criminology and criminal justice, then possibly go to law school


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