Student receives associate degree at Lone Star College before graduating high school
THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- When Kaitlyn McKinney walks across the stage at Lone Star College-Montgomery commencement on Friday, May 12 at The Woodlands Church - Fellowship Campus, she will be receiving her associates of arts before her high school diploma.
McKinney is part of the first graduating class that has gone exclusively to iSchool High, a public charter school located on the LSC-Montgomery campus. Out of the 59 students graduating, three are graduating with their associates degrees before iSchool High’s graduation on Thursday, May 25.
McKinney will already have 61 transferable college credits from LSC-Montgomery under her belt when she enters Sam Houston State University this fall. She is majoring in Psychology and expects to spend two years completing her undergraduate degree then it is on to law school.
“I started taking college classes the spring semester of my freshman year,” McKinney said. “I hope to have my bachelors by the time I am 19 years old, then have my law degree by 2022.”
“We want our students to feel like they are the masters of their own education,” explains Guamma Goff iSchool High Montgomery Campus Director. “We do not hold them back, we do not say, ‘you have done enough, now you have to wait for your class to catch up.’ Instead we say ‘you want to accelerate through material, as long as you can master the material, go ahead.’ It is amazing to see freshman come in, find their path and tell us ‘I am going to college my second semester of high school.’”
iSchool High has a partnership with LSC-Montgomery that blends high school and college into one educational experience, giving students a head start on both college and career. Teachers at iSchool High do not stand at a chalkboard and teach students, instead students like McKinney self-teach, working at his or her own pace with iSchool teachers serving as guides on the side. While she’s teaching herself during the day, Kaitlyn comes and goes per her college course schedule at LSC-Montgomery.
The best part: there has been almost no cost for the McKinneys.
“We only paid about $125 total for all four years, that is including the college credits,” admits Dad, John. “It is a very, very nice perk. The forethought of LSC-Montgomery to open up these doors for so many people is beneficial to Kaitlyn and all the students who have taken college classes.”
“iSchool is considered a public institution,” said Goff. “We are able to offer our students free college classes because Lone Star College has waived tuition and fees.”
McKinney did not even have to tell her professors she was a high school student, and many could not guess that fact from the caliber of her work.
“I told some professors upfront that I was in high school when I was 14 and 15 years old,” said McKinney. “They were surprised, but after a while I did not tell anyone and no one thought to ask or question it.”
McKinney says she has learned valuable lessons her time at LSC-Montgomery.
“When you are in college you have to do stuff yourself,” she said. “No one is going to do it for you, no one is going to hold your hand and walk you through it.”
“We were there as parents, but if she had a problem we did not run over to talk to the professor,” said John. “She did however, come home and discuss problems with us without being miles and miles away in a dorm. After having gone through this process, she feels confident in her abilities. She has the attitude that she can take on anything. We have been so happy with the program our son, Parker, is completing his freshman year at iSchool High this May. He will already have six hours of college credits under his belt, well on his way to following in his sisters footsteps.”
It took John six years to get his associates degree and he eventually went on to get his bachelor’s, master’s and law degree. When he and his wife saw this opportunity for their children they took it.
“It is interesting to see at how far ahead she is from where I was,” John calculates. “She could actually graduate law school and have a master’s degree by the time I had finished my associates degree. Kaitlyn is getting the chance to get a head start on life in general. It has been amazing to see her grow in responsibility, understanding and appreciation for learning at LSC-Montgomery.”