Ghidotti students earn degrees before high school diplomas (VIDEO) |

Ghidotti students earn degrees before high school diplomas (VIDEO)

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

While high school seniors prepare to graduate and receive their diplomas, some of their peers already have a college degree.

Twelve Ghidotti Early College students received their associate degrees Thursday before their formal graduation from high school.

“It’s definitely a lot of work. You have to really know what you want to do as soon as possible and actively seek out the classes you have to take,” said Aaron Hagadorn, who graduated with his associate in natural science.

The number of Ghidotti high school and AA degree graduates this year has been the highest in the program’s existence with 12 associate degree graduates and 41 high school graduates.

One of the reasons for the higher number of students may be the increasingly competitive job market and university acceptance, said Ghidotti Principal Melissa Madigan.

“I think this particular class went through high school during challenging economic times and was told how hard it is to get a job and get into college, and that they have to work that much harder,” Madigan said.

Students from 28 different schools have applied for the program, which accepts 160 students, Madigan said.

The program is funded through the state, which provides funding for each student enrolled in a Sierra College class, she said.

High school classes are taught by high school teachers on the Sierra College campus, and Ghidotti is still part of the Nevada Joint Union High School District.

Students can take high school classes taught by high school faculty members, college classes that fulfill high school requirements and college classes exclusively for college credit, said, Sierra College Executive Dean Stephanie Ortiz.

“A majority of students receive 30 college units by the time they are done with high school, and some earn 60 or more for their associate degrees,” Ortiz said.

Students are also provided with two counselors who help shape their educational plan, Ortiz said.

“It’s a really cool thing to be able to graduate with my AA in natural sciences,” said Hagadorn, who plans to major in astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “I would recommend it to anybody. It’s not as difficult as people might think. You just have to really focus and you definitely have to know what you’re doing. It’s a lot more personal responsibility, and I think that gets you ready for what college is actually like.”

Hagadorn’s mother, Annica Hagadorn, said the economic benefits for a Ghidotti student who plan to attend a four-year university are outstanding.

“Students going into college who already have an AA degree take off two years of college tuition,” Annica Hagadorn said. “At $33,000 or $34,000 a year, that’s a huge savings.”

Some of the Ghidotti students are attending University of California schools, as well as a university in Canada, and one student, Alex Michaels, will attend Princeton, Hagadorn said.

“You look at these kids, and they are really going places,” Annica Hagadorn said. “It’s just remarkable. Every school district should have a Ghidotti.”

Sierra College part of largest education system in world

As about 60 Sierra College students donned their burgundy caps and gowns for graduation, the largest education system in the world, the California community college system, was upheld.

“One of the important aspects of community college is that we accept the top 100 percent, so that gives everyone the opportunity to pursue an education,” said Ortiz.

“Some return to college after time away, others come to us directly from high school. Some who come want a fresh start in education, and we’re here for them.”

The California community college system is the most affordable in the nation, Ortiz said, and educates the most students every year in the world with 2.4 million.

“It’s not well-known,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz and others spoke during the ceremony, as well as earth science professor Frank Decourten, who was chosen by the student body to speak at the ceremony.

“We need agents of change and more than just hope,” Decourten said during his speech. “You will be the agent of change.

“Education is not knowing all the answers. It is knowing how to ask the right questions … You can’t win a Nobel prize in the category of conventional thinking.”

He went on to say that rather than be transformed by the campus, students transformed themselves during the course of their experience.

“We didn’t turn you into anything,” Ortiz said. “You did it, and we’re glad to have helped.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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