A head start on higher education

Buchanan High School seniors, from left, Jordan Enders, Lucas Bonek and Josiah Smith all received associate’s degrees from Lake Michigan College prior to graduating from high school. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Buchanan High School seniors, from left, Jordan Enders, Lucas Bonek and Josiah Smith all received associate’s degrees from Lake Michigan College prior to graduating from high school. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Buchanan, Niles High School students graduate from Lake Michigan College

A few local high school students were among the nearly 500 people who received degrees or certificates during Lake Michigan College’s 69th annual commencement ceremony Sunday in Benton Township.

How is that possible?

Schools across the state offer programs that allow students to take college courses for free while they are still enrolled in high school, giving students an opportunity to earn an associate’s degree before they receive their high school diploma.

Among the local high school students who got a head start on a higher education were Buchanan seniors Lucas Bonek, Jordan Enders and Josiah Smith and Niles High School senior Kelsey Barton.

“It’s saved us thousands of dollars,” said Bonek, who received a degree in pre-engineering. He plans on transferring to Western Michigan University in the fall to study computer engineering.

Enders and Smith both received associate’s degrees in general studies.

Enders will attend Michigan Technological University to study mechanical engineering and Smith will attend Western Michigan University to study business and sports management.

All three said time management was the most challenging part of finishing the school’s Early College Academy program.

“Between going to college, high school, sports practice and a job after that you learn to sacrifice,” Smith said. “Maybe you don’t go out to a movie with friends that night, you have to stay in and finish a paper.”

Despite the challenges, all three said the experience was worth it.

“The atmosphere was a lot different from high school,” Bonek said. “I definitely learned to work more with other students and to communicate with my teachers a lot more.”

“Real world wise… if you pass or if you fail it is all on you,” Smith said. “It teaches you to be independent is the biggest thing I learned.”

Enders said the experience has given him the confidence he needs to be successful at Michigan Tech.

“A high school degree doesn’t feel like it means as much as an actual college degree,” he said. “Starting off with a college degree before you go to college makes gives you more confidence that you can do it.”

 

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