When the Farmington High School class of 2017 graduates this May, several students will be not only be graduating from high school but will also be receiving an Associate of Arts degree from Mineral Area College as well.

Following a strong academic tradition, 31 seniors who took part in the dual credit program during their tenure at the high school will graduate this spring with their associate's degree - a record number of students for the program.

For these students, taking college credit classes while attending high school will have paid off as they are one step closer to achieving their goals – a college education, new experiences and a chance to save money as well.

“I think we have a lot of kids who are high achievers, and they are motivated to excel,” said Dr. Brian Reeves, a dual credit instructor at the high school. “Part of it is that motivation, the other part of it is financial.”

According to Reeves, it is taking many of today’s college students five to six years to graduate from a traditional college, but a dual credit program helps a student graduate in a timely manner.

“This program is more than just allowing kids to graduate in two years,” Reeves said. “Increasingly, it is taking students five to six years to graduate from a four-year institution. If they are transferring a significant amount of dual credit, they may not be able to in two years, but in four years for sure.”

Reeves went on to add the program is not designed for every student. It is a program that requires a strong commitment from the student.

“This is something that is not for everybody,” Reeves said. “It is a lot of time commitment, and they are accelerating their life quite a bit. But if you are a student who wants to excel and you are up for a challenge, it is a good option.”

For those who accept the challenge, the program can pay off in multiple ways. For many, it is the key to opening other opportunities they may not have been afforded if they had not finished high school with an associates.

“Our students who graduate with an associates can take a semester abroad or take an internship and not worry about falling behind,” Reeves said. “I think this is a real advantage.”

According to Andrea Richardson, the college program director for Farmington High School, the program also helps the students who are seeking to continue in their academic career and work towards a graduate degree.

“When colleges look at our students, especially those wanting to attend law school or med school, they are seen as completers,” Richardson said. “This program is for those who are personally driven.”

For two Farmington students, Gina Gerstenecker and Breanna Belvin, the program seems to be designed for their own personal needs.

“A lot of students have to go to a community college before they can go on which is what my siblings had to do,” said Gerstenecker. “My parents told me I would have to do the same thing, so I decide to take the classes now.”

For Belvin, getting her associate’s degree early was more of a matter of convenience. For this senior, there was never a doubt of what she wanted to do.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Belvin said. “I am doing my associates in teaching. I really want to be a special education teacher.”

The 31 students who will be graduating with an Associate of Arts are:

Derika Amsden, Katherine Banger, Katlyne Barnhouse, Chloe Barton, Brianna Belvin, Austin Boots, Shelby Collier, Zach Compton, Charles Cook, Shelby Dixon, Kyleigh Drye, Gina Gerstenecker, Haley Graven, Adam Griffith, Emily Heberlie, Sarah LaChance, Megan Lin, Hannah Rose Miller, Kylie Montgomery, Callista Nickelson, Shayla Reagan, Evan Reeves, Ben Sitzes, Jessica Sproat, Sophi Thurman, Hallye Tucker, Lucie Trokey, Blake Vandiver, Samuel Aiden Weekley, Abigail Winch and Makensey Zahner. 

In addition to the students graduating with their associates, four students will be graduating with 42 college credit hours. Although it might not be enough credit hours for an associate degree, they will be able to enjoy some of the same perks as students who have their associates, specifically being able to shave some time off of their college.

Among the students who will graduate with the 42-hour block are Emma Means, Olivia Savage, Ryan Parson and Tyler Wolff.

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Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-517-3629 or at cvaughn@farmingtonpressonline.com


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