Student earns high school diploma, associate’s degree in same week

Emily Nelson managed to earn a college degree within days of receiving her high school diploma. She has always been a dedicated student, so when MCC-Blue River began working with Fort Osage high school to provide a path to an associate’s degree for high school students, Emily was a prime candidate.

The program is called the Trailblazer Collegiate Academy (TCA), and its goal is to help high school students who are taking college credit classes, to graduate with a two-year college degree around the same time they graduate high school. Emily was among the inaugural graduating class of the elite academy; only three enterprising young students made up the Trailblazer Collegiate Academy class of 2012.

“When Fort Osage introduced the program, I was excited,” Emily says. “I have always been academically motivated, and this seemed like the perfect challenge.” Although she was at first concerned that the traditional students in her classes at Blue River might think that she was too young to finish the task, she found that she was easily accepted as a peer among the collegiate crowd. “Everyone I talked to about it was impressed and did what they could to help me along. In fact, I found myself helping some of the other students,” she told the MCC Insider.

Emily explains that “In the same week that I graduated from high school, I got to graduate from college. I got to celebrate two huge accomplishments together.” The accolades didn’t end there. The University of Missouri accepted Emily into a research program which will allow her to perform undergraduate research this fall. “The credit that I accumulated through the Trailblazer Collegiate Academy helped me to secure a position in the program.”

Working on a college degree while still attending high school gave Emily an appreciation of those students that work full-time while pursing higher education. She points to the Trailblazer Collegiate Academy as a way to prepare for the demands of a working student’s life.

Emily’s short term goal is to learn as much as possible within the field of biology. “Once I get to MU this fall, my goals will be to do well in my classes and get the feel of what scientific research is like. I may even go for my doctorate in molecular biology.” Emily would ultimately like to see herself in a professional research facility, finding new ways to fight cancer and improving upon the forms of treatment that are currently available.

The Trailblazer Collegiate Academy is already searching for its next set of outstanding students. Though Emily graduated in the very first small group to ever attempt the TCA program, her success story has helped to increase this year’s crop of recruits to a record sixteen TCA enrollees.