Dual credit means dual graduations for four local seniors

INA, Ill. (May 18, 2017) – Four high school seniors are going to have a hard time holding all of their graduation documents this spring as they walk across the stage, not once but twice, and come away with multiple diplomas.

Camryn Maloney of Christopher High School, Allee Wellen of Hamilton County Senior High School, and Austin Kessler and Kenzie Rizor of Thompsonville High School have done what only a handful of others have accomplished in recent years: walking across both their high school graduation stage and Rend Lake College’s commencement stage at the same time, all thanks to their hard work and dedication in RLC’s dual credit and dual enrollment programs.

These programs offer tuition-free courses with a reduced rate for textbook rental for all high school juniors and seniors in RLC’s district. In fact, during the 2015-16 academic year, approximately 3,014 students (duplicated) earned a total of 9,160 credit hours, saving over $870k in tuition alone. In addition to tuition savings, those students also saved a combined $377k in textbook rental fees.

High school students interested in learning more about RLC’s dual credit and dual enrollment programs should contact their guidance counselor.

Camryn Maloney, Christopher High School

Camryn Maloney utilized RLC’s dual enrollment program to earn college credit while she was still in high school. She did such a good job of it, that when she graduated from RLC, she walked away with both an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Science degree with honors for her high GPA (grade point average).

CamrynMaloneyGradWCamryn Maloney, RIGHT, received her RLC diploma Saturday from RLC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Larry Manning. Click on the image for a larger view.
(ReAnne Palmer / RLC Public Information)

“A couple years ago a girl from my high school, Christopher High School, graduated with her high school diploma as well as her Associate’s in Science and Art. I talked with her about it, and just knew it was something I was really interested in since I knew I wanted to go to medical school and knew that would be a long ten years if I didn't have any transfer credits. It seemed like a good fit,” Maloney expressed.

She continued, “Honestly, I would recommend dual enrollment to anyone as long as they are really dedicated. It was a great program, and I really enjoyed it. I like to be kept busy, and this definitely did keep me on my toes. Also, it helped me gain a lot of study skills that I know will come in handy as I head to university next year. It was a lot of hard work, but it was completely worth it in the end.”

Maloney’s not done though. Ever since she was a little girl, she has dreamt of being a doctor. To that end, she is going to attend the University of Missouri Kansas City and enter into their six-year bachelor / doctor of medicine program, an accelerated medical school program in which qualifying students are guaranteed acceptance, start clinical experience their first semester, and finish school in only six years compared to the usual 10. After she graduates, she plans to return to a rural area like Southern Illinois and work in obstetrics and gynecology.

“I'm excited to graduate high school and get my associate degree at the same time. It’s been a lot of work, and it’s really nice to see all of that pay off,” she said.

Allee Wellen, Hamilton County Senior High School

Allee Wellen’s interest in RLC’s dual credit and dual enrollment programs started long before she reached Hamilton County Senior High School. The general studies major first heard about them when she was in middle school, learning about another student who had blazed the trail to being a dual graduate.

AlleeWellenGradWAllee Wellen, RIGHT, received her RLC diploma Saturday from RLC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Larry Manning. Click on the image for a larger view.
(ReAnne Palmer / RLC Public Information)

“I heard about the dual credit program from my guidance counselor Mrs. Lueke. She told me that it would help me get a head start,” said Wellen. “What made me want to graduate [from RLC] at the same time as high school was hearing about a girl from Benton who did it when I was in the sixth grade. That always stuck with me.”

This spring, Wellen graduated with two associate degrees, one in arts and one in sciences, all with honors. She plans to transfer to the University of South Carolina to study criminal justice. To complete both degrees, Wellen said it was a lot of hard work and focus to take classes in the summer, at night, online, and while in high school.

“Don’t rush. It’s stressful,” said Wellen about advice to other dual credit students who are thinking about dual graduating. “It’s worth it in the end. You have to make sure you stay on top of your classes. It’s tough, but talk to your professors. They’re very helpful.”

Austin Kessler, Thompsonville High School

Austin Kessler has big goals for the future, and after earning an Associate of Science degree, with honors, from RLC while attending Thompsonville High School, he’s well on his way to achieving them. Kessler is transferring his degree to Southern Illinois University Carbondale this fall, where he’ll be majoring in pre-medicine with the goal of attending medical school for a career as a plastic surgeon.

He attributes his college-level courses for putting him ahead of the pack and encourages others to take a similar path.

“Graduating early will benefit me in the future by saving money and knocking a couple years off my college,” said Kessler. “Dual credit is a great way to be a step ahead of the game and really get a good feel of what a college student is really like. I would definitely recommend dual credit to other students because I believe that it prepares you for your future courses.”

In fact, Kessler said he already feels like a college student. His favorite part of taking the courses through his high school can be summed up in one word: flexibility.

“My favorite part about dual credit classes was being able to complete the classes on your own time and not having to worry about being at a certain place at a certain time,” he said.

Kenzie Rizor, Thompsonville High School

Though she didn’t physically walk across the RLC Commencement stage, Kenzie Rizor isn’t taking the accolade as a dual graduate lightly. The Thompsonville High School senior is still looking to her future and her plans to transfer two associate degrees with honors from RLC.

Kenzie RizorKenzie Rizor
(Submitted Photo / Jamiey Rizor Photography)

“Graduating early will help me in the future, because I’m saving time and money in the continuing path of my career degree,” said Rizor. “It also puts me a step ahead of everyone else.”

This fall, Rizor will major in animal science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign while working on a veterinary medicine degree. She said the dual credit and dual enrollment courses at RLC were a great introduction to higher education.

“My favorite part about dual credit classes is the accessibility. It really helped that I could take these classes at my high school and also get college credit for it,” said Rizor. “It was also helpful to have the familiarity of my classrooms, teachers and fellow students.”

For other students who are interested in following in her footsteps, Rizor had a few words of advice. She said, “I would recommend dual credit to other students, but only if they are ready for the commitment and responsibility. It really takes time and commitment, but the outcome is worth it.”


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