Thursday, May 4, 2017

Rio Salado Awards Record 93 High School Grads

image of Rio Salado Dual Enrollment Students with President Dr. Bustamante in caps and gowns celebrating

A record 93 high school students are on track to graduate from Rio Salado College this month, earning associate degrees before their high school diplomas. 

Of these students, 65 attended Rio Salado’s commencement ceremony at Comerica Theatre on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 7 p.m. in downtown Phoenix.

“It is very rewarding to see so many high school students take advantage of early college options and achieve this great accomplishment,” said Dr. Chris Bustamante, president of Rio Salado College.

Taught by certified instructors at their respective high schools, dual enrollment students earn college and high school credit at the same time.

Cassie Riggs, a senior at Mountain Pointe High School, is earning two degrees at Rio’s commencement ceremony, an associate in arts and an associate in science.

“Rio Salado’s dual enrollment program helped me reach my academic goals because I was able to get ahead of the game,” Riggs said. “While all of my friends are getting their high school diplomas, I will already have two college degrees. I can't wait to display my AA and AS degrees in my room.”

Riggs plans on attending Arizona State University to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Image of dual enrollment student in cap and gown taking a selfie at graduation
“I believe dual enrollment has done a lot for me and I can't wait for the new chapter in my life,” Riggs said.

Richard Audrain, a senior at Brophy College Preparatory, is using his associate degree to propel him toward a teaching career.

“With dual enrollment, I had the ability to study teaching and education on a collegiate level while in high school,” Audrain said. “I especially enjoyed participating in discussions with college students.”

Audrain hopes to one day teach Latin or work in education policy.

“I am proud and humbled to have been afforded the opportunity to earn a college degree before I graduated from high school,” Audrain said. “I know, however, this is just the beginning. Rio has proven to me that I am capable of achieving my goals.”

Desert Vista High School senior Katherine Niemeyer credits her determination for her academic success.

“I took dual enrollment classes at my high school, and online classes at Rio Salado,” Niemeyer said, admitting that the process was rigorous. “Earning an associate degree was my biggest motivation.”

Niemeyer has earned a scholarship to attend Colorado Christian University in the fall, and plans to become a youth pastor and teacher.

“This jumpstart I have will allow me to step into the workforce much sooner than that of my peers,” Niemeyer said.

“Dual enrollment has so many wonderful benefits for students,” said EJ Anderson, director of Rio Salado College’s dual enrollment program. “We are just thrilled so many students are taking advantage of this. Not only do students get a jump start on their college education, research has shown that dual enrollment students are more likely to stay in college, graduate from college and have better G.P.A. once they are in college.”

Along with improving academic achievement and graduation rates, dual enrollment courses also help with job placement, said Anderson. “This is one of the best things students can do to prepare for success in college.”

2017 Dual Enrollment Graduates Attending Commencement (by High School)

  • Brophy College Prep: Richard Audrain
  • Corona del Sol: David Ross, Isabella de Leon, James Miller, Mark Papala, Nicholas Tieri
  • Deer Valley: Kimberlee Balkeney, Tia Boudreau
  • Desert Vista: Audrey Larson, Basia Adeleke, Carly Rogers, Elena Kalina, Erick Rivera, Garrett Penna, Jacob Fisher, Jason Rattner, Jenna Vanderhave, Jodi Kreiner, Joshua Caballero, Julia Ziesmer, Katherine Niemeyer, Kelly Tabarez, Nicole Trujillo, Olivia Pinkowski, Paige Martin, Steven Oeberst
  • Heritage: Brady Haws, Kalli Naylor
  • Horizon: Courtney Fried, Nicole Padgett
  • Marcos de Niza: Rida Imtiaz
  • McClintock: Emma Ryan
  • Mountain Pointe: Cassie Riggs, John Marshall, Madeline Greve, Noah Lopes, Payton Mackey, Sara Bacon, Saul Favila, Terryn McDonald, Valeria Smith, Vlada Markov
  • South Mountain: A'lira Underwood
  • Xavier College Prep: Aleeha Noon, Alexandra DeLeon, Allyson Dowse, Alyssa Cerna, Annika Christensen, Ashley Martin, Camille Hays, Carolyn Blake, Deziray Morales, Elena Zurek, Eizabeth Hall, Emma Ciulla, Francesca Caruso, Gabrielle Gaspard, Hailey Barrell, Isabella Rose, Jessica Smyth, Jocelyn Jones, Jordan Krueger, Julianne Olloren, Kaiti-Lynn Zendejas, Karly Hrasky, Katherine Witt, Maeve McIntyre, Malia Hernandez, Megan Piotrowski, Olivia Campisano, Quinn Blake, Samantha Marx, Stephanie Burchhard, Thien Le

For more details about Rio Salado’s dual enrollment program, visit