(SPRINGFIELD, Ky.) – Three Washington County High School graduates had to attend another graduation ceremony in addition to the one at WCHS. While they received their high school diploma this month, Lauren Carrico, Noah Hutchins and Laura Smith also earned an associate’s degree from Campbellsville University through the Early College program offered at WCHS. The program allows exemplary students to complete their first two years of college (65 college credits), beginning with their junior year and completing it by the time they graduate from high school.

“I decided to participate in the Early College program because it was an amazing opportunity that allowed me to obtain my associate’s degree while still in high school,” says Carrico. “My junior year was challenging because I had a full high school and college schedule. This year was more demanding because I was commuting to Campbellsville for classes while still being active at the high school through cheer, clubs, and senior events.” Upon both graduations, Carrico has an associate of science, is SRNA certified and will complete two more summer courses before continuing her education at CU in the fall. She is on track to become a nurse anesthetist. She is the daughter of Phillip and Tammy Carrico.

Hutchins says he decided to enroll in the Early College program because he wanted to get a head start on completing his general education courses. “I already knew I wanted to major in theatrical arts and psychology, so I didn’t need to take those extra two years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.” He admits, however, that his college courses were much different than the ones in high school. “It was no walk in the park,” he says. “I felt like college was more enjoyable in high school, but I felt like I was the one who was most responsible for my grades. My professors weren’t going to tell me that I had a missing assignment or that I needed to take a test that I had missed.” Hutchins, who had nine classes, most of which were college courses, says he struggled some nights with the workload. “Some days I felt overwhelmed, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.” He plans to complete his college career at CU, and would like continue in theatre, perhaps even acting on Broadway or in a film.

Smith says the program allowed her to also get a jumpstart on her education. “[It] allowed me to graduate high school with an associate’s degree for a fraction of the cost of what a regular college student would pay,” she says. “Participating in the Early College Program required more effort of me than the average college student. I’ve worked really hard to earn this degree while still being a high school student, but it was all worth it.” Smith plans to continue her education at CU and earn bachelor’s degree in business administration, emphasis in management, and educational ministries and marriage and family ministries. “My career goal is to be a youth minister,” she says. “I believe God has given me a passion for youth and I want to use that passion to glorify Him.” Smith is the daughter of Amy Wilhite and Darrell and Kristy Smith.

“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!”