Thursday, May 22, 2014

Class of 2014 Dual Enrollment Grads Shine

Thousands of high school graduates are celebrating across the Valley this week, each worthy of praise--but there’s a special group of students who deservedly belong in the Class of 2014 spotlight.

These students received their associate degrees before completing high school by taking advantage of Rio Salado College’s dual enrollment program. 

There were a total of 13 Rio Salado dual grads this year, 12 from the Tempe Union High School District’s Corona del Sol, Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe high schools and one from Xavier Prep in Phoenix. 

Danielle Papala
“Taking dual enrollment classes was one of the best decisions I made in high school,” said Corona del Sol grad Danielle Papala. "I got to take fun, challenging high school classes while earning college credit at the same time.”

Another benefit—it saved her family a lot of money. “The entire cost of my AA degree was one-third the amount of one full year of tuition at my future college.” 

Papala, who will attend Grand Canyon University as a Health Care Administration major, said the program also jump started her career.

“Because I have completed all of my general education credits, I can now take upper level classes specific to my major and complete my Bachelor’s Degree in just two years instead of four.”

More than 6,700 students from 41 schools earned college credits last year, but these grads made an extra effort to take additional courses at Rio Salado to earn their degrees. 

Bridgett Ott
Desert Vista grad Bridget Ott went a step further. “I was able to earn two associate degrees before graduating high school. This means that when I attend the University of Arizona in the fall, all of my required credits for freshman and sophomore year will already be completed.”  Ott who graduated with an associate in arts and an associate in science plans to major in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science with the hope of becoming a neuroscientist, a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon.

Ott’s Desert Vista peer, Faith DeMent, who will also attend the U of A this fall as a Spanish major, found the courses rigorous but worthwhile. “They can be challenging, but not all of them are insanely difficult, and I think it was worth it in the end. It saved my parents a lot, and I think I can receive my master's in four years.”

“This is an amazing program,” said Dr. EJ Anderson, Rio Salado’s Director Community Partnerships- Early College. “We have had students start medical school at 20, double major and be admitted to prestigious third year college programs at 18. Dual enrollment enhances the rigor of the high school curriculum, introduces students to college expectations, creates a smoother transition to college and saves both time and money.”

Sara Smith from Tempe Desert Vista
with President of Rio Salado College
Dr. Chris Bustamante

Anderson said the key to the program’s success is community support, especially from parents. “This program is really taking off as parents, teachers and administrators see the incredible benefit of students earning college credits while still in high school.” 

Mountain Point grad Adam Grula will attend ASU to study engineering. When asked why he became a dual student, he said, “Probably the same reason as everyone else, my mom signed me up.”

“I cannot tell you how great this program has been for my kids,” said Beth Grula. “Rio and the State of Arizona have something special here.”

Grayson Lee-Kin
Desert Vista grad Grayson Lee-Kin thinks so too. He will attend ASU in the fall as a Business Management major. “I really hope that several years from now, this program is still in full function, that way my brother can achieve just as many, or perhaps even more, credits as I did. And I'm thankful for my mom for all the research assistance she did in the process in selecting my courses… and my dad for all the encouragement and assistance.”

Rio Salado is the only dual enrollment program in Arizona to receive accreditation by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships,

For more details about Rio Salado’s dual enrollment program, including scholarship opportunities, visit or call 480-517-8080.

Top Photo lineup:
Adam Grula (Mountain Point)
Ashlen Nichols (Desert Vista)
Giovanni Badini (Mountain Point)
Sara Smith (Desert Vista)
Terrance Toyser (Desert Vista)
Danielle Papala (Corona del Sol)
Grayson Lee-Kin (Desert Vista)
Briana Bustamante (Corona del Sol)
Madeline Brandt (Xavier College Prep)
Bryanna Lappin (Desert Vista)
Bridget Ott (Desert Vista)