A Teenager Graduates High School and Community College at the Same Time, and the Online Learning That Made It Possible

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A Door Opens for a Non-Traditional Student

Kate Croteau spent the month of May walking in two graduations, earning a high school diploma AND an associates degree from a community college.

She has always been a non-traditional student.

Kate was home-schooled in elementary school and switched to online charter schools for middle and high school.

But it wasn’t until a teacher from Ohio Connections Academy, an online charter school serving students in grades K-12 across Ohio, suggested she start taking college-level courses when her studies really took off.

Finally Challenged

“I was bored in freshman English,” Kate says. “I wasn’t being challenged and my high school teacher suggested a program called College Credit Plus.”

The program allows high school students to take college courses for credit that still count towards high school graduation.

“Instead of English 10 in high school, I started taking English Composition 1 then 2 at North Central State College,” she says.

And Kate says the experience finally gave her the challenge that she wanted academically.

Mixing High School with Community College

It was a gradual process.

She took all high school classes during her freshman year. Then a few college-level classes were mixed in her sophomore year.

Pretty soon, she was taking all college-level courses—that also counted towards her high school diploma—in math, science, psychology, sociology, English, and other disciplines.

“There was a huge difference between high school and college,” Kate says. “And I loved the new, accelerated pace at North Central State.”

Her high school courses had all been online. Now she was taking some of her college courses IN physical classrooms on campus.

Lauds and Honors

“I’ve always done well in my classes,” Kate says. “I took an economics course at North Central State, however, that went just whooooosh.”

“I was definitely under water that semester,” she says.

Kate still excelled academically.

Through Ohio Connections Academy, she was inducted into the National Honor Society.

Kate was one of three salutatorians in her high school class.

(“I loved those live induction ceremonies over the years,” she says. “I realized I wasn’t the world’s only high school overachiever.”)

At North Central State, she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. It’s the nation’s oldest academic honor society.

She graduated with an associates degree in liberal arts of psychology.

Still, Kate’s flexible schedule also allowed for time to be active with the Girl Scouts, the 4H Club, guitar lessons—she writes lyrics when she can, and has been teaching herself piano for “the last couple of years.”

One of Kate’s unfinished lyrics:

I will not follow you around

Not without a call

I will not expose my wandering soul

I will not pretend to be helpless

Which one’s the lie? I’d like you to take the best guess

A prize if you’re right

A blank stare if you’re either

‘Friends for Life’

“When I started working as an English tutor at North Central State, I started making friends for life,” Kate says.

“We were a bunch of stressed-out college students who were sleep-deprived and broke,” she says. “All this brought us together.”

Kate started to get involved with the deaf community in her community.

She’s partially deaf in one ear and has lost most of her hearing in the other.


“I became really attached to the deaf community,” Kate says. “And I love using American Sign Language.”

Kate was familiar with the challenges for hearing-impaired students in traditional classrooms:

* she was given preferential seating in the front row of classrooms,

* she needed transcripts for all audio and video files played in class,

* and she often needed outlines before professors delivered traditional lectures so she could follow along and stay on top of words that were unfamiliar.

Her experience has motivated her to help others.

This fall, she’ll begin classes at Kent State University to focus on speech pathology and audiology.

The Next Academic Adventure

Kate says she feels a bit of pressure to be such an academic super gal.

“I couldn’t have gotten this far without the support of my family,” she says. “Because of the various accommodations I needed in class, we had to fight for things every so often.”

“I’m looking forward to being normal at Kent State,” Kate says. “I’m looking forward to doing well academically, being active on campus, being a leader in the community—with normal expectations like normal people.”

And her next academic adventure begins in late August when she moves in to her Kent State dorm.