JUNE 3, 2020
SJR State salutes Collegiate High School inaugural graduating class
"The program was the perfect combination between intellectually challenging me and also encouraging me to maximize my academic potential. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every college professor."
Among this year’s Clay and Putnam County high school graduates includes a unique group of seniors who have earned an additional milestone to celebrate. They are the first to graduate from St. Johns River State College’s Collegiate High School — a four-year academic journey that concluded with a college degree in addition to their high school diploma.
Five years ago, SJR State President Joe Pickens proposed to the Clay County school district, a new opportunity giving students a steady, achievable path to earning an Associate in Arts degree while still attending high school.
Similar to the College’s existing Dual Enrollment program, Pickens envisioned a hub for college and career-readiness, where participants would begin college-level courses during their ninth grade year and have all four years to progress. "We wanted to present another resource the community could embrace," Pickens said, adding, "The Collegiate High School’s purpose is not to cater only to the highest-achieving students, but to help capable students reach their potential," he said.
Four years after its implementation, 25 students from OPHS, and three from Putnam County schools are graduating — tuition free — from SJR State’s inaugural class. With their associate degree in hand, the graduates have the college credits to transfer to a university this fall and enter their degree program as a junior.
Among the OPHS graduates was Caden Phillips, who described his experience as a "drastic change" that altered his life. “Whether it was designed to or not, the program brought the students in it closer together," Phillips said. "We took the same classes; we faced the same struggles; and the students who remained became tighter and a more close-knit community." Phillips also stated that while this opportunity may not be for everyone, to those students who do accept the challenge, he "guarantees that the Collegiate High School has a place for you," adding, "Among the teachers, students, and faculty, not once did I feel like I did not belong."
OPHS Principal Clay Anderson said, "I am very proud of our Raider seniors for graduating with their associate's degree from St. Johns River State College, as well as their high school diploma from Orange Park High School. Many of these students were part of our district's first ever Collegiate High School and have definitely shown their tremendous work ethic and dedication to their academics while also being incredible ambassadors of our school. In a world where people often ask 'Why?' these wonderful students ask 'Why not?,' and we are thankful for that."
The OPHS graduates are Isabelle Abrahamson, Sebastian Alvarez, Bobbi Blevins, Sidney Breu, Matthew Coffey, Abigail Ferry, Alexis Gallardo, Harold Goslee, Jarrod Hiller, Richard Hurston, Kennyth Kouch, Cole McLeod, Joel Meharg, Eden Miller, Amelia Morgan, Daniella Obmasca, Kiele Pavlisko, Caden Phillips, Tatiana Santos, Nathaniel Schirmer, James Slott, Michelle Tyrrell, Zayne Underwood, Lindsey Walsh and Emma Whitener.
Following the successful launch of the Collegiate High School program in 2016, the program expanded in 2017 to Middleburg High School, Palatka and Interlachen high schools in Putnam County, and the high schools throughout St. Johns County.
In addition to the OPHS graduates, three Putnam County students completed the program this year — Colby Mikell from Palatka High School, and James Fletcher and Victoria Golden from Interlachen High School. The three began the program in 2017 as sophomores with the freshman class and took extra classes in order to complete in three years.
According to Mikell, "For the me, the collegiate program was incredible, and I wouldn’t have wanted my high school experience to go any other way. The program was the perfect combination between intellectually challenging me and also encouraging me to maximize my academic potential. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every college professor."
IHS Principal Bryan Helms added, "We are incredibly proud of the dedication and diligence of James and Victoria to not only graduate from high school with honors, but with the Associate of Arts degree complete as well. This was no easy task, and we celebrate their hard work and success. This accomplishment is a true inspiration to our underclassmen."
Looking forward, PHS Principal J.T. Stout said the program gives students the experience needed to be successful in the next step of their educational career, whether that be vocational, SJR State or the university of their choice. “We hope to see these outstanding individuals come back to Putnam County to help us grow and improve."
Mikell strongly encourages students who are also interested in earning their A.A. degree while in high school to do so. "If you are thinking about joining the program, do it," he said. "It may be challenging at times, but there is no better feeling than knowing you completed two years of college while still in high school. This truly was an amazing experience."
SJR State Director of College Access and Dual Enrollment Meghan Deputy said, "We are extremely proud of our first class of Collegiate High School students. It is truly an amazing accomplishment to achieve your Associate in Arts degree with your high school diploma. These students persevered for four years, and we couldn’t be happier for them."
Today, the Collegiate High School program includes approximately 1,000 students throughout the College's tri-county district.
The Collegiate High School program accepts approximately 300 qualified students each year. The program is designed to challenge students and promote advanced critical thinking and research in the students’ discipline. SJR State’s Honors Program is also embedded into the program, and 40 hours of community service is required.
The Associate in Arts degree is the legally recognized transfer degree for the Florida College System and is specifically designed for the student who wishes to transfer into the State University System of Florida as a university junior. The general education courses necessary to complete the A.A. Degree can be taken part time or full-time, on campus and online.
To learn more about the program, visit www.sjrstate.edu/collegiate_hs.html or contact the SJR State Office of Dual Enrollment at (386) 312-4136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Public Relations and Publications