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Program Helps High School Students Get Jump Start on College

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It's a crazy time of year for high school seniors as they get ready to graduate, and some will participate in more than one graduation ceremony to get a jump start on college.

It's a busy time of year for Anna Correa.

"I think most people are getting ready for that transition," she said.

Correa will graduate from Valley High School later this month, but first she'll walk across another stage.

"I'm going to graduate from DMACC with my Associate of Arts and my Associate of Science degrees," she said.

She took dual credits in high school through the Career Advantage program at Des Moines Area Community College.

Correa said, "It wasn't actually too much different than what I would have done in my normal high school route."

At least six seniors from Valley High School will graduate from DMACC with a 2-year degree before walking across their high school stage, joining a record number in the area.

DMACC Interim Dean Program Development Mark Steffen said, "They're kids that are really motivated. Kids that really get after it as far as academics are concerned. And, there is a better awareness of what we're doing, so more and more students are taking advantage of it."

Forty-eight students will graduate with an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree. Many more will graduate high school with at least a few college credits.

DMACC Director of Program Development Michael Lentsch said, "Last year we had 17,000 students earn DMACC credit while still in high school. It's the largest program in the state. We have over 500 teachers that are approved to teach in the high schools for us and we serve 64 high schools in our region."

The dual credits are free for the students. It's funded with flow through money from the Department of Education to give students a jump-start on college.

"We're really crunching that 9-12 into 9-14, which is something we need to do as we look at student debt in the United States. It just keeps going up," said Steffen.

This will save Correa thousands of dollars and time as she heads to the University of Iowa.

"I'm going to get my Bachelor's degree in international affairs, public health, and I'm going to get a minor in Spanish. I'm going to do a study abroad and then I will get my Master’s in public health. I'll be done in five years."

Students should contact their high school guidance counselor about the career advantage program. Information can also be found at www.dmacc.edu.