Nearly a third of the Crothersville High School Class of 2019 already has received a diploma.
On May 11 at Columbus North High School, Will Amick, Piper Hensley, Grace Monroe, Brandon Riley, Maddie Riley, Samantha Rose, Lane Wienhorst and Karmyn Williams participated in Ivy Tech Community College’s graduation after completing an associate degree program.
Through the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative, students at Crothersville and Austin high schools can take dual-credit courses taught by qualified high school teachers and Ivy Tech professors. They receive the degree after earning at least 60 credit hours.
The eight are among 55 Crothersville students who have received degrees in the past seven years. By doing so, they spend a year or two less and save thousands of dollars in earning a higher college degree.
On Friday night, they will receive their high school diploma to add to the one from Ivy Tech.
“When I was walking across the stage, first of all, I was trying not to fall, but then I got (the diploma) and I was like, ‘I really just did that. I got my associate degree before I’m getting my high school diploma,’” Hensley said.
“I think we were all really excited,” Maddie said. “We worked pretty hard the last few years to get to that point, so it’s exciting.”
Monroe said she didn’t know what to expect at the graduation.
“I also felt like Piper and I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’” she said. “It was a good experience.”
Sitting in the same row together and taking pictures at graduation were highlights of the day for Brandon.
“It made me feel so happy that all of us got through the course and completed it,” he said.
Both Amick and Wienhorst said they are glad to save money and time in college and start their careers sooner.
“It was great to see how everyone actually completed it and could say that we had actually done it,” Amick said.
“I felt accomplished because I just graduated college before I graduated high school. When I walked across the stage, I felt that I had accomplished that,” Wienhorst said. “It’s going to help me because I’m only going to have to go to college for two more years to get my bachelor’s (degree), and I could go two more years to get my master’s.”
Williams also is ready to move on to the real world after graduation.
“It was way bigger than I thought it would be,” she said of the Ivy Tech ceremony. “I knew it was going to be bigger than our high school graduation. It was like, ‘Wow! I’m really graduating college.’ I just feel like now, I’m ready to go and do more college and more schooling and be ready for that.”
Former Crothersville High School Principal David Schill helped create, design and develop the early college program.
He and Superintendent Terry Goodin talked to Ivy Tech officials and felt it was the best program because it’s free for the students. The school pays an annual fee of about $14,000 to cover the costs of Ivy Tech professors, but 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.
The program began at Crothersville eight years ago, 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, Crothersville and Austin students have been able to earn associate degrees.
The 2015-16 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.
Applications 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.
All eight of the seniors began the program their sophomore year.
“I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, and then Mr. Schill explained it, and it opened up a new opportunity for all of us to be a part of a bigger thing,” Monroe said. “I felt like I would get more accomplished doing this.”
Maddie’s older brother, Brady, completed the program in 2017.
“It wasn’t really much of an option. It was, ‘You’re going to do this, and you’re going to graduate,’” Maddie said, smiling. “Knowing that he didn’t have to pay for two years of college was what made me more accepting to want to do it.”
The students noticed differences in the college-level courses.
“They were definitely harder than regular classes because the professors’ teaching styles are different than regular high school teachers,” Brandon said. “The classroom was a bigger size, and we had people from other schools go there.”
Amick said some classes were harder than others.
“The hardest part was probably some of the tests we had to take, and the new teaching style was kind of hard to get over,” he said. “In high school, we don’t really get lectures and stuff like that.”
Maddie said those lectures gave her a feel for what to expect in college.
“I feel like the classes were a lot easier than what we’ll all encounter next year,” she said.
“I think it will help us because we get used to how they take the tests and the way they lecture and just the environment in general,” he said.
Rose said speech was the most difficult class.
“I just don’t like giving speeches,” she said, smiling. By the end of the class, though, she said it did help her.
Hensley said the heavy workload from the early college program allowed her to learn time management. She had to balance taking regular classes and early college courses with competing in three sports.
“It was rough because some weeks, we wouldn’t have any homework, and then it’s like they all piled it on at once, and it was the week we would have the most games,” she said. “I already know how to deal with that, and I know I’m going to have the same type of situation in college.”
The seniors also said it was nice having each other to rely on for help.
“You have to have a big support group like these people right here, so you have to lean on each other. Stress was one of my big problems. You just have to learn how to deal with it,” Monroe said.
“If some of us didn’t understand a topic and one person understood it more than others, he could help communicate,” Brandon said.
“We talked about the classes a lot during regular school, so if someone didn’t understand something exactly, we could talk about it or remind someone of an upcoming test,” Amick said.
“If we all had homework and we all struggled with it, we would all help each other,” Williams said. “I knew that if I needed help with something, I could ask someone because they would be willing to help, and it was really nice we could just all come together as friends.”
Brandon said he hopes the early college program draws students from other schools who want to take advantage of the unique offering.
His classmates hope other students at the school give it a try, too.
“I’m just glad the school has the opportunity to do it. I think it’s just great that we can get two years of college out of the way,” Rose said.
“I would encourage other kids, as many as possible, to try this program if they think they can do it because it will help them in the long run and save them a lot of money,” Wienhorst said.
“It’s a really great opportunity, and anyone should take it,” Williams said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
The eight Crothersville High School seniors recently earning an associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College shared their postsecondary plans.
Will Amick: Attend Ball State University to study premed to become an emergency room physician
Piper Hensley: Attend Centre College to play basketball and major in anthropology and sociology to become a criminologist
Grace Monroe: Attend University of Indianapolis to study nursing
Brandon Riley: Join the U.S. Air Force
Maddie Riley: Attend Indiana University Southeast to study preoccupational therapy and then transfer to University of Indianapolis or University of Louisville to become an occupational therapist
Samantha Rose: Attend Indiana State University to study biology on a premed track to become a medical examiner
Lane Wienhorst: Attend Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus to study finance to become a financial analyst
Karmyn Williams: Either have a gap year or attend Georgia Gwinnett College to study writing and rhetoric to become an author, a journalist or a publisher