(SPRINGFIELD, Ky.) – Six Washington County High School graduates had to attend an additional graduation ceremony on WCHS’s graduation day earlier that morning in May. While they received their high school diploma, Brittany Greenwell, Ciara Bishop, Kristin Roution, Karagan Brizendine, Gwendolyn Campbell and Taylor Eldridge also earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Saint Catharine College through the Early College program offered at WCHS, a program allowing exemplary students to complete their first two years of college, beginning with their junior year and completing it by the time they graduate from high school. Greenwell, who is attending the University of Louisville this fall to study political science with plans to become a social justice activist and public defender, says that choosing to be in the Early College was one of the best and most beneficial decision she had made.
“Being a dual enrolled college/high school student was never easy, but it was very rewarding,” says Greenwell. “Our professors worked with us exclusively to ensure that we felt at home on campus and many of our classmates, though surprised to have high schoolers in their college courses, were very accepting of us. The work load was intense [and] in addition to balancing out time at both schools, many of us were still heavily involved in extracurricular [activities] and had jobs, not to mention somewhat of a social life.” While she feels she didn’t have to make huge sacrifices in order to earn the degree, Greenwell says that she and her fellow graduates certainly didn’t have the average senior year experience. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but the intense study sessions, abundance of exams and essays and lack of sleep that came with being an Early College student was well worth it when I walked across both stages. I owe thanks to my parents, friends and coworkers for listening to my constant complaining and for helping me ease my stress that was at times quite overwhelming.”
Bishop, who plans to attend Campbellsville University to finish her bachelor’s degree and then head to Eastern Kentucky University to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate to study criminal justice and psychology, says she jumped at the opportunity to be an Early College student. “One thing I value over all else is education,” she says. “I have always had a hunger for knowledge.” She also agreed that she too experienced stress while juggling high school with college. “Having to balance both codes of conduct and requirements for graduation proved to be a challenge,” Bishop said.
“The work was more difficult than high school work, but with the help of the phenomenal AP teachers we’ve been exposed to at [WCHS], we made it through our classes just fine.” Bishop says that while she made many sacrifices in order to be an Early College graduate, she is glad she made took on the task. “I gave up the most memorable year of high school to pursue this degree,” she says. “The many friends that I had grew thin as the past two years progressed. I commuted from Lebanon several times a day due to the large gaps between classes. I gave up things I wish I could have kept, but I in no way regret my decision to persevere and make it through to graduation.”
Roution says she chose to join the program so that she could finish college faster and save money since the college classes through the Early College program only cost a fraction of what she would normally pay. While she admits her experience also included stress, especially during her junior year, senior year was much smoother since she only attended college classes. “Some classes were minimal, but others required strenuous studying and weekly tests,” she says. Roution also said that missed out on what she deems as the “normal” high school experience since she decided to enroll in Early College. “All of us worked our butts off,” she said. “I remember around prom time, I had four huge exams that week. All I could think was ‘I couldn’t even go to prom even if I wanted to,’ being as stressed out as I was.” Regardless of the sacrifices she made, Roution is looking toward the future in completing her education. “I have been accepted into all of the colleges I applied to, but am still undecided,” she says. “I do plan on going into business, though. I am just going to wait and see what God has in store for my future.”
“The Washington County School District is very proud of our Commander College students,” says Washington County Schools Superintendent Dr. J. Robin Cochran. “These students were able to earn an associate’s degree while obtaining their high school diploma. This is quite an accomplishment and should be celebrated. They are well on their way to future success!”
Brizendine, Campbell and Eldridge were unavailable for comment.