Seniors graduate early, pursue dreams

For most students, high school is a four-year journey starting on their first day of freshman year in August and ending on the last day of senior year in May. However, some opt to cut their high school experience short and begin the next chapter of their lives early.
Students’ reasons for graduating early vary, but they all have a new beginning ahead of them.

“I decided to graduate early so I could age out of the foster care program,” Linzee McGruder said.

She had been in the system since early 2016. If she wanted to leave foster care on her own she either had to wait until she turned 18 or until she received a diploma or GED.

Another recent graduate was eager to break a pattern and become one of the few graduates in her family.

“I was determined to do it,” Tanisha Kunkel said.

To her, graduating a semester early made the most sense, and she was ready to move on.
“You’ve been there for three years, like it’s time to go, you have to realize that eventually it will all be gone.” Kunkel said.

Both McGruder and Kunkel are pursuing degrees at Hutchinson Community College.

It’s something I’ve always wanted…I knew it would all be worth it in the end.”

— Acacia Petrie

Students that decide to graduate early are still required to have the same amount of credits as a typical graduating senior. This often requires taking multiple classes of the same subject and/or taking classes outside of normal class hours.

“Graduating early has been a part of my plan since freshman year but didn’t really feel real until I finished my English course over the summer, through the Essdack Learning Center,” semester graduate Acacia Petrie said.

Petrie is currently pursuing CNA certification and plans to later become an RN.

”I stay motivated because it’s something I’ve always wanted so I had time to think about what I really wanted to be and have time to save. I knew it would all be worth it in the end,” Petrie said.

According to a statistic by USA Today, only three percent of high school students graduate early. Though going through all four years is the current norm at Newton High and nationally, some believe more students could benefit from graduating early.

“I don’t necessarily think that the traditional four-year path is for everyone. I personally know a lot of people who struggle to come to school everyday, and I feel like a shorter high school experience might cut down on the level of truancy,” McGruder said.

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