Abigail Bolton may be the only student in town to earn a college degree before receiving her high school diploma. While completing her high school credits at iSchool of Amarillo, she was working on her first two years of college at the same time. On May 13 she walked across the stage at Amarillo College with her associate degree, and May 27 she graduates from high school.
When she heads off to West Texas A&M University in the fall of 2016 for her first year of college, she will start school as a junior. In two years, she plans to graduate from West Texas A&M with her bachelor’s degree in biology. She hopes to have her doctorate in dentistry and be working as an endodontist by the time she is 24.
Maximizing her potential has always been a focus for Abigail. This led her parents to homeschool her after third grade because they didn’t believe she was unlocking her full potential. In seventh grade, her parents enrolled her at ResponsiveEd’s Vista Academy of Amarillo, which is the primary school that feeds into iSchool High.
Michael Griffin, the campus director at iSchool High of Amarillo, believes it is important that parents and students start thinking about college in middle school because early planning can open more opportunities.
“College can be expensive. When you have driven students like Abigail it is important that they have the resources that will help them excel. My job is to make sure students are challenged in their studies and that parents are aware of the opportunities available,” said Mr. Griffin.
By eighth grade Abigail was already taking high school classes. Her freshman year she began to take college classes and completed her associate degree before she graduated.
It was during her senior year that she began to realize just of how big a head start she will have.
“I am ecstatic. I feel very lucky that I have this opportunity because it will give me a jump start in life. It is partially a surprise because freshman year you are just going into high school. I started taking dual credit courses. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is,” said Abigail.
Every semester of high school, she took two college courses, and during the summer she took at least one class at Amarillo College. At iSchool, some of the classes were dual credit and others were online through Amarillo College.
With her assignments due by the end of each week, she learned to organize her week so that she could focus on a particular subject or assignment every day.
“I tried to fit it all into the beginning of the week so I could use the end of the week for anything I missed,” she explained.
Taking college classes in high school was a challenge, but Abigail said it helped her learned the necessity of time management, self-motivation and discipline.
“You have to take an active will in time management. I had to decide when to study and when to take leisure time. You learn to not procrastinate. I’ve had to be responsible for my own classwork. I’ve had to spring myself forward and help myself,” she said.
While she was working towards earning an associate degree, Abigail was not thinking about dentistry. But then in the summer after her junior year she worked as an assistant for a local dentist. She was hooked.
“My favorite memories from last summer were at that dental office. I actually like root canals because you have to be really strategic and thoughtful about what you are doing,” she said.
iSchool’s early college program helped Abigail save a lot of time and a lot of money. The college classes she took were free of cost but were worth at least $8,240 at West Texas A&M. She takes the gift she was given very seriously and always worked hard to show her appreciation for the opportunity.
This summer Abigail intends to enjoy a summer free of classes, but still work four days a week at Amarillo Dental Associates.
Ready to start a new chapter, Abigail encourages any student that is interested in early college to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Don’t be discouraged by all the hard work because it is very rewarding and very exciting,” she said.