Iris Avila is a 17-year-old junior at GateWay Early College High School (GWECHS). She also happens to be receiving her Associate in Arts and Associate in General Studies from GateWay Community College at the commencement ceremony May 9, 2014.
Avila will be the first and only junior from the high school to walk in the gradation ceremony.
She has been working on earning her associate degree since the summer before starting high school. Avila was part of the Junior ACE (Achieving a College Education) Program at Phoenix College. She was then accepted into the ACE program.
The ACE program is designed to help students who may not consider going to college as a goal and help them make a smooth transition from high school to an accredited community college.
Avila started taking summer and Saturday college classes through Junior ACE, which she then continued into her high school career. She has been taking one Saturday class ever since and takes two high school classes as part of her curriculum in GWECHS.
“I knew coming here I would be able to do it,” said Avila. She credits coming to GWECHS to helping her receive an associate degree before her high school diploma.
Avila also completed the Spanish CLEP Test, and has received 16 credit hours of Spanish. The credits cover Spanish 101, 102, 201 and 202.
She has enjoyed her time at the high school and believes it has given her more opportunities to learn than if she had attended a different high school.
“I think that because it is smaller we are able to get more one on one time with teachers,” Avila said. Her classes typically have 22 students in them at the high school.
She also feels that her ability to have taken college classes have made it easier to learn in her high school classes.
Avila credits her mother as inspiration to get a college degree.
“My mom set her foot down and said go to college. It was not as easy for her to attend college. She has always encouraged me to keep going.”
The May 9 graduation ceremony is at North Phoenix Baptist Church (5757 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona) at 6:45 p.m.
”It is nerve racking because I am the only 17-year-old and everyone else is in there 20s,” shared Avila about the ceremony.
Avila is planning on continuing her college education and hopes to transfer to a university.
“It was not as hard as I thought it would be,” Avila said about getting two college degrees before graduating high school. She is still trying to decide what she wants to pursue her bachelor’s degree in.
About GateWay Community College
As one of the Maricopa Community Colleges, GateWay Community College is a fully accredited public institution of higher education located in Phoenix. Offering more than 125 certificate and associate degree programs in the areas of Business and Information Technology, Health Sciences, Industrial Technology, Nursing and University Transfer, GateWay has emerged as a leading institution to meet the needs of business and industry. Visit www.gatewaycc.edu or call 602-286-8000 for more information. The campus is located at 108 North 40th Street, Phoenix AZ 85034.
The Maricopa County Community College District is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.