Killing two birds with one stone: Seniors graduate college before high school

North Branch 2019 grads (from left) Nathan Korkowski, Kayla Lenzmeier  and Peighton Koeppen also graduated from Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Cambridge. 

Three 2019 North Branch High School graduates have learned a very important lesson as they wrap up their senior year – how to graduate college before high school. 

Peighton Koeppen (18), Nathan Korkowski (18) and Kayla Lenzmeier (17), can add the title “college grad” to their list of accomplishments before they even walk across the stage on June 2 to collect their high school diploma.

Taking advantage of a state program through Anoka-Ramsey Community College (ARCC) for high school students, the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) program allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college-level courses while completing their high school diploma requirements simultaneously.

Motivation required

Koeppen, Korkowski and Lenzmeier knew early on that this was an important decision to make. The motivation to pursue this option was very similar for all of them. 

“I was motivated to do PSEO because I had different values than the people at my high school,” Koeppen said, “and I wanted to be more challenged academically. I wanted to be in control of my own schedule more and choose classes I wanted to take also while receiving free college credits.”

Being able to coordinate high school and college classes was challenging but a rewarding experience for the three. Having a greater understanding of how this option would be beneficial for their college future was something they all decided was at the forefront of their decision to pursue PSEO. 

Korkowski knew that attending PSEO would assist in obtaining a four-year degree. 

“I wanted to do PSEO because it would allow me to save time and money once I actually enrolled at a college,” he said.

The motivation to further their education did not only fall under the category of financial freedom from a four-year college bill. It also manifested in the area of learning important skills to set them apart from the rest. Lenzmeier knew that the skills she learned while attending PSEO were extremely important. 

“My time management skills that I learned – there is no doubt in my mind that they will come in handy later in life,” Lenzmeier said. 

The skills they acquired came from perseverance, dedication and challenges during their college life.

There were Challenges

Working through challenges was a hurdle they all had to overcome. 

“Anything that is worth pursuing has its challenges,” Koeppen said. “I chose to go to the Coon Rapids campus my second year, so commuting presented various struggles especially with the harsh winter. I also faced challenges with some of my classes. You always get one professor you don’t see eye-to-eye with or a class that’s just more difficult for you.”

Adapting and growing through these challenges encouraged the students to see the inner strength they had in overcoming them. Lenzmeier recognized that learning from them was very important. 

“Working with some online professors sometimes was a struggle,” she said, “but one that taught me many things like how to solve my own problem or how to ask peers for help.” 

One thing they all agreed on is how they could not have done it without the support of others during the journey.

Support all the way

Koeppen knows she could not have done this without the support and encouragement from her parents. 

“They were a constant encouragement to me through this,” she said, “and constantly pushed me to be better but also showed me grace when I messed up. I could have not done it without them.” 

Family members were not the only support team that was encouraging for Korkowski. 

“I would like to thank my teachers and coaches for being understanding and pushing me to do the best that I could with my education,” he shared. 

For Lenzmeier, her mother, who was a 1989 graduate at Cambridge-Isanti High School, along with her sister, who accomplished the same feat in 2016, were her sources of inspiration and encouragement. 

“My mom did not get this opportunity when she was a student,” Lenzmeier said. “I was excited to work hard and set myself apart from my peers and she supported me the whole time. My sister was a part of this program and did well. She completed her two-year degree before high school as well, and it has given her many opportunities, and I wanted that for myself.”

What the future holds

On May 17, 2019, all three students walked across the stage to receive their Associate of Arts degree from ARCC two weeks before they graduate high school. With degree in hand, they understand the significance that piece of paper holds for their future. 

Leaving for Chicago, Illinois, to pursue a degree from Moody Bible Institute, Koeppen knows the sky is the limit. 

“I see myself traveling to different places around the world helping others and motivating and inspiring others through motivational speaking,” she said. “I genuinely want to help people for the rest of my life, so whatever that looks like I am okay with.” 

Attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout, Korkowski realizes the meaning his two-year degree will have in obtaining his bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. 

Lenzmeier, following her fellow classmate to Wisconsin, stated, “I want to be a mechanical engineer and a project manager because I like to lead projects and people.”

When asked if they would recommend PSEO to other students considering it, they all say absolutely. 

“Do it,” Lenzmeier said. “It is such a great opportunity. You will meet new friends and get free schooling. What could be better?”

For more information about PSEO offered through Anoka-Ramsey, visit https://www.anokaramsey.edu/admissions/pseo.

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