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MLCHS Students Earn Associate's Degrees

Two students from Martha Layne Collins High School graduated from college BEFORE getting their high school diploma. Graycee Pratt and Mckenzie Thorp received their Associate's Degrees on May 12th from Jefferson Community and Technical College. All Shelby County Public Schools students have the opportunity to earn dual credit college credits from JCTC. Our board of education pays for a set number of hours per semester. However, it is the dedicated few who earn a college degree that will help them as they transfer to a four-year college program or even enter the workforce. 


First, Graycee Pratt has always been an academically driven student who enjoyed a good challenge. Her inner motivation is what encouraged her to pursue an associate's degree while in high school. Graycee said, “I have known for a long time that  I wanted to pursue a career in pediatrics, and in my head, being able to take off two years of college while in high school was what I wanted to do.”  At first, Graycee had her doubts, but her determination kept her on track.


Graycee began with two college courses during her freshman year of high school. She increased her workload to four college courses during her sophomore year, six during her junior year, and nine during her senior year. 


“One of the hardest obstacles I had to overcome was not just entirely giving up. It was hard to continue with my college classes. I always just told myself that it would pay off in the end.”


Students work to balance their schedules and have to prioritize fun activities with the time and effort to complete all of the course work. 


Graycee plans to attend the University of Pikeville to pursue a pre-medicine track. Then, she will continue her education and become a doctor of osteopathic medicine with a specialty in pediatrics. 


Her advice:  “Definitely challenge yourself and take some college classes. Don’t feel like you need to push yourself and complete an entire degree, but take on the course load that fits your high school dreams.”


Next, MLCHS Senior Mckenzie Thorp was given the opportunity to start taking classes through JCTC during her sophomore year of high school. Her career path choice was to become a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon and being able to get a jump start on her college education was a gift. An Associate’s Degree is 60 college credit hours. McKenzie took math and English courses as well as social studies, humanities, and communication classes. 


Mckenzie admits that she had to find a way to prioritize the scheduling of her time for class versus time for family, friends, and extracurricular activities. “I can’t remember even to this day the last time that I had the ability to get to my bed before 10 o’clock at night. My courses took a lot of time, but so did my life outside of classes.” Taking college classes helped her to change her ideas about a future career. 


Mckenzie says she is unsure of what job she wants in the future at this point.


“Although I do not know specifically the job title of what I want to do in the future, I have a general idea and the lifestyle that I want. I want to be part of the business administration/corporate of a certain company, maybe eventually a CEO if I decide to go that far. As far as my future life, I want to make my own schedule and work for myself to a certain extent. I want to be married and have a family I can attend to at night or whenever needed. I want to travel and see the world through my eyes rather than on a screen in front of me. I want to culturally be more exposed to those who differ from me and hear more about their life and life stories. I want to eventually be a foster mother or adopt a child and maybe start an organization that will assist single mothers working their way up from the ground and need the extra support. I want to live an impactful life that will positively influence others to be the best that they can be.”


Mckenzie encourages other students to consider taking college courses while in high school. “Every individual knows their pace. Be different from being strong. A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy about going for my associate's degree. Have a dream, and set a goal.  Get yourself there without the validation of others.”