When it comes to preparing for tomorrow’s opportunities, students of all ages are finding college a necessity. More and more, Indiana residents are turning to Ivy Tech for affordable access to post secondary education – whether they are heading toward a four-year degree or looking to gain a distinct advantage in today’s competitive job market.

High School Senior Awarded Associates Degree Before Diploma

According to the 21st Century Charter School website, “College is key to success in life: We offer the roadmap to get there.”

With an Ivy Tech Associates Degree in General Studies already in hand before he walks across the stage to accept his high school diploma on June 3rd, 21st Century senior Vincent Pena could be the poster child for his high school’s mission.

“I took my first dual credit class as a sophomore,” he said. “After that, my Academic Coach got me on the path toward a degree. In my junior year, I realized this could be something great.”

According to Ivy Tech, dual Credit is an option for high school students to simultaneously take college classes while in high school, to receive college credit while fulfilling high school requirements. Some courses are taught at the high schools during school hours, while others are taught at Ivy Tech sites during the day, evening or weekends. Dual Credit allows students to get ahead and earn college credit before finishing high school.

After completing the required 60 credits for his degree from Ivy Tech, Pena, who is the first person in his family with a college degree, was the first student from Gary’s 21st Century Charter School to earn the honor. Along with his mother, brother, aunt, uncle and cousin, 15 of Pena’s high school classmates were there to witness his accomplishment when his name was called, and he proudly walked across the stage during Ivy Tech’s graduation ceremony earlier this month.

Next week, they will all be together again for the 21st Century graduation ceremony.

“I couldn’t believe I actually did it,” Pena reflected on receiving his college degree. “My mom is so proud that I’ve accomplished so much. She’s excited for me to take the next step and go to Purdue.”

With a full scholarship as a freshman at Purdue University West Lafayette, Pena will be working toward a combined bachelors and masters degree in Computer Graphics Technology. With a jumpstart of 37 qualifying credits from Ivy Tech, he hopes to complete the program in three or four years.

“From there, I’m not exactly sure what I would like to do,” he said. “I became excited about this field when I joined the robotics club at school last year. It was the first year for the club, and we competed with 40 other teams at the FIRST Robotics Boilermaker Regional in West Lafayette. We won the Rookie Inspiration Award for teamwork.”

Looking back on his tremendous accomplishment, Pena admits it was difficult at times.

“I enjoyed the program and classes very much,” he said. “I am very grateful for the support of my Academic Coaches at 21st Century, they were always very helpful. It’s a great honor to receive a degree from Ivy Tech.