Arizona 15-Year-Old Will Graduate From College, Then High School

PHOTO: Kimberly Koerth
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An Arizona 15-year-old girl will don two different caps and gowns this month, but the first won't be at her high school graduation.

Kimberly Koerth, 15, will graduate this Saturday from Central Arizona College, where she'll receive her Associate's degree. The following Monday, the newly minted graduate will head back to her high school classroom -- with a college degree.

The soon-to-be double graduate with a 4.0 GPA won't be a high school student for long though. She's set to graduate in two weeks from the Casa Grande, Ariz. high school.

"It's kind of crazy, but I'm excited for the future and everything," she said.

"I didn't know I could graduate that fast,[but] it was actually really easy and I enjoyed the challenge of college classes," she said. "I don't want to be bored in the classroom."

The teen, who skipped a grade in elementary school, started her college studies at age 12 after teachers said she was ready for advanced math courses that the school couldn't offer.

When she entered high school, the credits she had earned at Central Arizona College were also counted towards her high school studies.

"She's very intelligent and this [situation is] very unusual," said Doris Helmich, president of Central Arizona College. "On occasion we have students who will complete high school and college together but not to this extent."

The majority of the 100 students in Arizona's Pinal County who participate in the concurrent enrollment program will leave high school with two years of college behind them, Helmich said.

The community college pays the tuition of students who qualify, beginning during their junior year of high school, and it requires them to attend classes on campus. Helmich said she realizes the program isn't for everyone.

"What it does is it takes motivated, committed students while they're in high school through a college program," she said, adding that the school meets with prospective students and parents to determine who would be a good fit.

After hitting two milestones that don't usually happen until after a person has a driver's license, Koerth is ready to aim for another.

She'll be attending Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the fall, where she plans to obtain both her bachelor's and master's degrees through a joint program by the time she is 18.

Even though she's three years younger than most college freshmen, Koerth will be living in a college dormitory, possibly with a roommate. The precocious student said she has no regrets about leaving behind high school at 15.

"Education comes first for me, then volunteering at different service organizations, then fun time," she said. "I know I'll have enough of that in the future."

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