When seniors Grace Bayzath and Gavin Wolf walk across the stage during Cardinal High School’s graduation ceremony on Saturday, May 18, they will receive their second diploma in a weeks’ time. Their first will come on May 11 when they graduate from Lakeland Community College with their Associate of Art degrees. They will be the first Cardinal students to receive associate’s degrees while in high school since the College Credit Plus (CCP) program started.
The Lakeland Community College Associate of Arts degree requires the successful completion of 61 semester credits with a 2.0 minimum grade point average. Both Bayzath and Wolf began taking classes full-time at Lakeland at the beginning of their junior year of high school.
“It was a big sacrifice,” Bayzath said. “I knew I would be giving up being in high school with my friends, but I’m still able to see them and participate in clubs here at Cardinal. The opportunity to go to college and earn credits for free was just too good to say no to.”
Wolf said it was his mom who ultimately swayed him to forego the high school experience in favor of the college one. “She told me, “Why not?”” he said. “I can save my family thousands of dollars on tuition by earning the credits now. This opportunity just made sense to me. I have no regrets.”
Through the Lakeland CCP program, credits earned may also be used to fulfill high school graduation requirements. To be considered for admission in the program, high school students must apply, submit high school transcripts, and take a placement test in which they are required to score high enough to place into college level English and/or math. Students are also required to clearly demonstrate they are able to handle college-level coursework.
“The first semester was a bit of a shock to me,” Bayzath said. “I really had to examine my study habits and then adjust them so that I could keep up with the coursework. Once I found my rhythm, the whole experience became much easier.”
Wolf agrees that adjusting from the high school workload to the college one was hard. “It was a big change,” he said. “At first, I didn’t really want to do this. I wasn’t sure if I made the right choice, but I stuck with it, figured it out, and now that I’ve done it, I know there’s nothing I can’t do.”
Following their dual graduations, Bayzath and Wolf both plan to continue their college careers. Bayzath has been accepted into Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She plans to major in communications and will likely start the fall semester as a junior. “This feels really good,” she said. “I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. College is very expensive and already having an associates degree means I will accrue less debt while pursuing my bachelors. Without this opportunity from Cardinal and Lakeland, I don’t think I would be able to afford to attend Miami. I’m just extremely relieved and grateful.”
Wolf plans to continue taking classes at Lakeland this fall while working a regular job. “Right now, I’m not in a rush,” he said. “I want to be able to take my time and figure out what the right career path is for me. Following this next year of classes, Lakeland will work with me, and through partnerships they have with other local universities to transfer credits, we will determine the best place for me to finish out my college career based on what I want to do. This has been the perfect experience for me, I would have been so mad at myself if I had decided not to do it and see it through.”
The Ohio Department of Education defines College Credit Plus as Ohio’s dual enrollment program that provides students in grades 7-12 the opportunity to earn college and high school credits at the same time by taking courses from Ohio colleges or universities. The purpose of this program is to enhance students’ career readiness and postsecondary success, while providing a wide variety of options to college-ready students, at no or limited costs to students and families. Here at Cardinal, students are able to begin an advanced course pathway starting in seventh grade. Eighth graders are able to earn high school credit by taking high-school level math and science courses. Cardinal High School offers 11 CCP class options which give students a chance to earn up to 37 college credits before graduation. This particular set of classes are all taught at CHS by CHS teachers. There are currently eight high school teachers who are certified to teach college-level coursework. Outside of CHS, students can take additional CCP classes online or at other colleges and universities. Credits earned via one of these two avenues also count toward both high school and college credits.