Through MCC program, Kansas City high schoolers graduate with a college degree before their diplomas

Posted at 1:02 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-03 17:23:00-04

While these high school seniors are trying on their caps and gowns, it's not to get their diplomas. Instead they're getting degrees.

"It really showed me to be responsible and to take care of my own things and also that if I want something I have to work hard for it," said Sophia Kludy, 17, a high school senior. "It is not something that comes easily."

"I got big dreams," said Jesus Vega, an 18-year-old high school senior. "I wasn't guaranteed to go to college because my parents wouldn't be able to help me go to college, so I was like this is my chance to get a free education so I might as well do it. So I took the chance and I'm here now."

For the past two years they've been doing double duty so that this May they can graduate with their community college associates degrees before they even get their high school diplomas. It's all through the Early College Program.

"I thought it would be a great way to jumpstart my education," said Chebet Buckner, also 18 and a high school senior. "If I had just stayed in high school, I would have been fine, but I wouldn't have gotten the competitive edge that I needed to really succeed."

Back in 2010, Kansas City Public Schools and Metropolitan Community College partnered for the Early College Program. The students begin freshman year of college in their junior year of high school. They graduate with their associates degree in their senior year of high school.

"The Early College Program used to be the only one of its kind in the country," said Early College Program coordinator Paula Schaaf. "Now I can say it is the first because we have different school districts that are stepping up and looking at our model and looking at the numbers of kids we are graduating with two degrees at the same time."

Since then, the program has grown from 14 to this year's 94 students.

This May, 46 students will graduate. Combined, those 46 students have been accepted into 340 colleges and universities across the United States and have received a total of $16 million in scholarships.