Michaela Spear: Graduating from high school and college -- at the same time
Winona Daily News, May 11, 2021
Michaela Spear was on track to get enough credits to graduate from Houston High School by the end of tenth grade -- but it wasn't allowed. She would have to go to high school at least one more year before she could graduate.
Determined to use her time wisely, she started taking college classes at Minnesota State College Southeast through the PSEO program, which allows high school students to take college classes at no cost.
Now she is graduating from both high school and Minnesota State College Southeast at the same time, having already completed a two-year college degree!
When she first started, she had in mind taking just a few college classes. Gradually her plans came into focus and she began working on a certificate in administrative support careers.
But as she succeeded in one class after another, she realized that if she worked hard enough, she would have enough classes to earn an Administrative Assistant degree at MSC Southeast before graduating from high school.
This 2-year Associate of Applied Science degree is built on a strong foundation of general education college-level classes. Students gain expertise in all aspects of office software, including word processing, bookkeeping, spreadsheets, presentations, and desktop publishing. Most of the classes are available online.
As an independent learner, Michaela found that college-level classes were a better fit than her high school classes were.
"I struggled in high school," Michaela stated. "I actually do better with online classes. I'm better at teaching myself. I don't retain concepts as well if somebody else is explaining them to me."
Michaela said her best friend's mother, Amanda, was extremely helpful and supportive. Amanda even helped with transportation by driving Michaela to campus to take tests because she didn't have her driver's license yet.
Amanda's influence was pivotal in Michaela's decision to go for a degree.
"First, she talked me into it, then she signed up for the program herself!" Michaela exclaimed. "She's actually getting the same degree now."
Another inspirational figure was her instructor and advisor, Ramona Coron. "She's one of my favorite teachers. I've emailed her so many times! Ramona helped me decide on my major and has been helpful to me even after I finished my classes with her. She helped me figure out what I could do best in my future career."
This spring, Michaela gained valuable work experience through internships with the City of Houston and the Houston Nature Center. She worked on complex projects like indexing City Council meeting minutes and developing a timeline of land development issues in the area.
"Michaela's internship provided the opportunity for her to be a valuable team member and apply the skill set and software knowledge she gained from her coursework," Ramona Coron said.
While this experience puts her in a good position to go directly into the workforce, Michaela has decided to move to Montana -- a place she calls her second home -- and continue her education. She plans to go to college there and earn a certificate in medical information coding.
Meanwhile, Michaela is glad to be finishing Spring semester strong. "I am so happy to be getting my degree and that I have all As and Bs this semester! My GPA has actually gone up as I've gone along."
Ramona Coron is very gratified by Michaela's success. "She has what it takes to succeed: determination, perseverance, dedication, and confidence. I am incredibly proud of Michaela and all she has accomplished while earning her degree from MSC Southeast."