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Elkhart students walk at college commencement before graduating high school

Some Elkhart students are walking at their college commencement before graduating high school. // WSBT 22 photo

Spring is here, and students all over the country are donning caps and gowns for graduation. Some students in Elkhart, however, are graduating from college before they even graduate from high school.

In total 80 high schoolers from Elkhart Community Schools walked in Ivy Tech's commencement ceremonies last week. Those students are involved in the Early College and Dual Enrollment program.

"I wasn't a good student. That's something I can admit. I didn't see myself going to college," said senior Makayla Dirk.

Dirk, however, is already more than a quarter of the way through her college career even though she won't graduate high school for nearly a week. She just graduated from Ivy Tech with her Statewide Technical General Education Core Certificate.

"Which is a core of 30 classes made up of general education courses that will count for their first year of college, guaranteed to transfer to any state school in Indiana," said Gail Draper, supervisor for the Early College and Dual Enrollment program.

She says it can save students a year's worth of tuition or more.

"I feel blessed because they've seen something in me that I didn't, and so now I have a full ride to the college I’m going to," Dirk said.

Dirsk says she'll likely graduate early, but some of her classmates have other plans.

"I could take more classes while I'm there because I want to learn as much as I can about my subject area," said senior Sam Coates.

Coates has accrued more than 45 college credits at Purdue University. Draper says the students earn those credits through their high school classes, but that doesn't mean it's college light.

"It's a college setting. You have to do everything on your own. You have to know when your papers are due, you have to know when projects are due,” said Dirk.

"I am beyond proud of them. They have done amazing," Draper said.

Draper says when these students walk across Elkhart Central's stage for graduation it'll be a bittersweet moment.

"The thought of them actually leaving brings tears to my eyes, but I just love them. I’m so proud of them, and I can't wait for them to come back and tell us what they're doing,” said Draper.

Dirk says she plans on majoring in sociology and minoring in journalism. She says if she likes the minor she might switch it to a second major.

Coates says he wants to get into computer science. He says if you can handle the course load, it's a great program for any student.

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