Seventeen-year-old Rochelle Eastman fast-tracked her education and found a way to maximize earning academic credits. While enrolled at Littleton High School, Rochelle leveraged dual enrollment programs with White Mountains Community College (WMCC) beginning when she was only 15, to earn enough credits for an associate degree and open educational pathways for her future. Her perseverance and dedication to learning paid off in a big way.
At her high school graduation, a surprise was in store for Rochelle as she was not only awarded her high school diploma but was also greeted on the stage by White Mountains Community College President Dr. Chuck Lloyd, who was on hand to congratulate the enterprising student.
“When I received my high school diploma, Dr. Lloyd also presented me with my associate degree,” said Rochelle. “I earned two degrees on my high school graduation date. I was so surprised; I had no idea that he was going to be there. It was really awesome and meant a lot to me.”
True to the community college mission of celebrating each student’s success, Lloyd took the time to drive to Littleton that morning to celebrate one of WMCC’s newest and youngest graduates. In those final few months of high school, Rochelle had worked hard to complete the remaining credits needed to complete her associate degree in health science. Graduating from college is a big accomplishment anytime, but being able to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree shows just how committed Rochelle is to learning and getting ahead.
“Rochelle was a celebrity,” said Dr. Lloyd. “She was beaming and there was a lot of admiration from her peers who all just graduated high school and saw that she had a leg up on them.”
While this was a special day for Rochelle, it was also for Dr. Lloyd as he celebrated the first high school student to graduate with a dual degree from WMCC.
“I was probably more excited than Rochelle when I was driving up that Saturday morning,” Dr. Lloyd added. “For anyone that knows me, this has been a dream of mine for years that finally came to fruition. It dates back to when I worked in admissions at NHTI – Concord’s community college – and I used to say that it would be great if people knew that they could be taking college courses while in high school and walk out with dual degrees.”
In addition to the Running Start and eStart programs, WMCC also offers the Early College program which allows high school students to enroll in regular college credit courses on campus that can be applied to a degree or certificate program or transferred to another institution. These courses are taught by WMCC faculty and cost high school students 50% of the regular tuition of the course. State-funded STEM Scholarships can also be applied to these courses. Rochelle has taken advantage of the Running Start, eStart, and Early College programs.
Rochelle is a trailblazer, and her story helps start mapping the way for other high school students to see the college pathways that are available. Dr. Lloyd, WMCC and Community College System of New Hampshire’s ultimate goal is that Rochelle’s story spreads to all students during their high school years.
Rochelle’s educational journey doesn’t stop here. This fall she’s headed to the University of Denver and plans to work in medical science. Because of her WMCC degree and accepted credits that will transfer to the university, she is already halfway to the finish line of earning a bachelor of science degree in biological science. This path will take less than two years, after which she plans to continue her education and earn a master’s degree, giving her another leg up with the potential to earn a graduate degree when her peers are finishing a bachelor’s degree. She’s set up for success.
“Rochelle’s mature and confident beyond her years,” continued Dr. Lloyd. “Here she is, fresh out of high school, talking about a master’s degree already when a lot of people her age are trying to figure out what’s next after high school. This is something that will carry her into life. When she gets her master’s degree in a couple of years, she will head into a career and she’ll start working on the skills that she needs next for a promotion.”
This process also has financial savings and is attainable with forward-thinking and starting early. Rochelle says it’s as easy as asking a few questions to determine the best route.
“I started out by talking with my guidance counselor who helped me figure out the best option and said I could use my time to my advantage and take college classes and get credit. I started taking a few classes in the summer between my junior and senior year, just to kind of see if that was something that I would be comfortable with.”
Rochelle is a prime example of how mapping things out and pushing herself can open doors and help get ahead in life. She is eager and ready for her next journey at the University of Denver but credits this experience with launching her journey.
“I won’t realize how much I’ve benefited from this for years to come,” Rochelle added. “The connections that I made at White Mountains Community College will last a lifetime and I’m so appreciative of the support and opportunities that they gave me.”
Even though she graduated several months ago, her relationship with WMCC didn’t stop and Dr. Lloyd has invited her back to speak with future high school students about her story to encourage more down this path.
“I’ll just say once again, how proud I am of Rochelle,” said Lloyd.