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LMC early graduates a step ahead

Published 11:39am Monday, May 6, 2013

Caitlyn Cummins is already one step ahead of most of her peers.

The Brandywine High School senior is one of 13 students who earned an associate’s degree or certificate of achievement through Lake Michigan College’s Early College Academy at Bertrand Crossing prior to graduating high school.

Cummins accepted her associate’s degree during Sunday’s commencement ceremony at the LMC Mendel Center in Benton Harbor.

Early College Academy students such as Cummins were among an LMC record 533 students who received certificates and/or degrees during commencement. A total of 551 degrees and certificates were awarded.

It’s an achievement Cummins is proud of.

“At 17 years old, I get to cross that stage and say, ‘I did this. I have 64 credits and I can graduate before anyone else,’” Cummins said.

She saved some money too.

High schools in south Berrien County who partner in the program pay each student’s tuition and fees associated with courses. In some cases, they even pay for textbooks.

Cummins estimates she saved at least $10,000 — money she gets to keep in her savings account.

“That’s really nice — absolutely,” said Cummins, who plans on studying speech pathology at Michigan State University after graduating from Brandywine in June.

Since the program began in 2010, nearly 100 students have participated in the Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy. Sixteen have graduated college prior to their high school graduation ceremony.

According to Barbara Craig, executive dean at the Bertrand Crossing campus, the ability for academically prepared teenagers to get the college experience while in high school is beneficial academically as well as financially.

“To date, we have helped Early College students and their parents save upwards of $500,000, when you compare LMC’s costs to the first two years of a public or private four-year institution,” Craig said. “That makes a world of difference in helping these kids succeed after college with limited debt.”

Buchanan High School student Taylor Sokoloskis received two degrees from LMC, an associate in srts and an associate in science, after completing 75 credit hours through the Early College Academy. She will attend Albion College in the fall and dual major in biology, and either computers or education.

“It’s an amazing program. I credit so much of what I’ve been able to accomplish in school and where I’m going to BCECA preparing me for that,” Sokoloskis said.
“I feel like I’ve grown tremendously as a person in the last two years. There’s so much to be said for the social learning you get, as well as the educational experience.”

Another Early College Academy graduate, Niles High School’s Sarah Lighthart said she plans to study biochemistry at Cedar Crest College with a concentration on forensic science.

LMC Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy Graduates:

Brenten Bunde-Shau, Brandywine High School
Caitlyn Cummins, Brandywine High School
Alissa Gamble, Brandywine High School
Magdalina Hildebrandt, Buchanan High School
Sarah Lighthart, Niles High School
Joseph Lindamood, Buchanan High School
Kelsey Miltenberger, Niles High School
Patience Newman, Brandywine High School
Taylor Sokoloskis, Buchanan High School
Mariah Srmek, Brandywine High School
Lukas Strang, Niles High School
Victoria Toney, Niles High School
Kyle Zelmer, Buchanan High School

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