KILLEEN, TX — More than 100 Killeen ISD seniors earned their college degree before they earned their high school diplomas.
These Killeen ISD students attended the Early College High School, which earns them an associate degree upon completion. The program was recently named a model school for the state.
While rigorous curriculum challenged students for the past four years, a quarter of the students are the first in their families to attend college.
"I’m a first generation student so I’m basically first person in my family to graduate," said Juan Villafana, an honors graduate.
Students say the program, which partners with Central Texas College and Texas A&M University-Central Texas, is a springboard for their academic careers.
"College is going to get easier because we basically had way more hours than normal college students," said Villafana.
Students didn’t need to have exceptional academics to enter into the program, but must remain motivated and committed once accepted.
"These students are not selected based on high test scores. It’s a lottery. So it’s coming from the entire student body. So it’s not like these are all super high achievers or have been," said Marc Nigliazzo, the President of Texas A&M University-Central Texas.
Early College High School students have been accepted to Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, NYU, Johns Hopkins, Drake, Bucknell and several Texas schools.
"Those kids test scores and so forth are at an extremely high level. And some of them are going to go off to very large institutions," said Nigliazzo.
The ceremony was held Friday at Central Texas College Friday night at 6:30 p.m. Early College seniors will graduate from high school May 31.