When it comes to preparing for tomorrow’s opportunities, students of all ages are finding college a necessity. More and more, Indiana residents are turning to Ivy Tech for affordable access to post secondary education – whether they are heading toward a four-year degree or looking to gain a distinct advantage in today’s competitive job market.
High School Senior Awarded Associates Degree Before Diploma
According to the 21st Century Charter School website, “College is key to success in life: We offer the roadmap to get there.”
With an Ivy Tech Associates Degree in General Studies already in hand before he walks across the stage to accept his high school diploma on June 3rd, 21st Century senior Vincent Pena could be the poster child for his high school’s mission.
“I took my first dual credit class as a sophomore,” he said. “After that, my Academic Coach got me on the path toward a degree. In my junior year, I realized this could be something great.”
According to Ivy Tech, dual Credit is an option for high school students to simultaneously take college classes while in high school, to receive college credit while fulfilling high school requirements. Some courses are taught at the high schools during school hours, while others are taught at Ivy Tech sites during the day, evening or weekends. Dual Credit allows students to get ahead and earn college credit before finishing high school.
After completing the required 60 credits for his degree from Ivy Tech, Pena, who is the first person in his family with a college degree, was the first student from Gary’s 21st Century Charter School to earn the honor. Along with his mother, brother, aunt, uncle and cousin, 15 of Pena’s high school classmates were there to witness his accomplishment when his name was called, and he proudly walked across the stage during Ivy Tech’s graduation ceremony earlier this month.
Next week, they will all be together again for the 21st Century graduation ceremony.
“I couldn’t believe I actually did it,” Pena reflected on receiving his college degree. “My mom is so proud that I’ve accomplished so much. She’s excited for me to take the next step and go to Purdue.”
With a full scholarship as a freshman at Purdue University West Lafayette, Pena will be working toward a combined bachelors and masters degree in Computer Graphics Technology. With a jumpstart of 37 qualifying credits from Ivy Tech, he hopes to complete the program in three or four years.
“From there, I’m not exactly sure what I would like to do,” he said. “I became excited about this field when I joined the robotics club at school last year. It was the first year for the club, and we competed with 40 other teams at the FIRST Robotics Boilermaker Regional in West Lafayette. We won the Rookie Inspiration Award for teamwork.”
Looking back on his tremendous accomplishment, Pena admits it was difficult at times.
“I enjoyed the program and classes very much,” he said. “I am very grateful for the support of my Academic Coaches at 21st Century, they were always very helpful. It’s a great honor to receive a degree from Ivy Tech.
Mother Daughter Duo Soars in the Face of Adversity
In life there are always unpredictable twists and turns.
Mary Dres became a hair stylist at 18, and, for many years, the divorced mother of seven children – four sons followed by three daughters - worked in that field to support her family.
“A couple of my sons went off to college and that inspired me,” she said. “I first started out at Ivy Tech in 2008. At that time I was aiming to go more into computers. But, the timing wasn’t right at that point in my life. Then, in 2008 I decided to give it another shot and was thinking about becoming an RN originally.”
When one of her sons was in an accident and put on a ventilator, it was an eye-opening experience for Dres.
“There were some things that I understood and others I had no idea about when it came to his treatment, either way it was very frightening,” she said. “That’s when I started leaning toward respiratory.”
Around that same time, Molly Dres was rethinking her path at IU Northwest.
“My mom was definitely one of the main reasons why I chose the respiratory program at Ivy Tech,” she said. “I have asthma so I’ve been around that kind of stuff all my life. Then, when I had knee surgery at 17, I had a lot of experience with healthcare workers, especially when I was doing my rehab. I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, something to help people. Once I did my research, interviewed a respiratory therapist and took a tour at the Valpo hospital, I knew I wanted to go for it, and Ivy Tech was the only school with a respiratory program in our area.”
So, while Mary was in her second year at Ivy Tech, Molly enrolled as well.
“I started out at the Valparaiso campus for two years taking all the pre-requisites,” she said. “Molly and I took a few classes together at Valparaiso – anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Then, we moved to the Gary campus for the respiratory program concentration, and we had every class together for the two years we were there. I loved going to school with my daughter, it was a lot of fun.”
“I really liked the diversity of all the different ages in my classes,” Molly added. “I didn’t want to be just a face I the crowd, but I also didn’t want to be singled out as one of the youngest either. I was pleasantly surprised. The whole experience was a lot like what life is going to be like outside the college world. I learned a great deal from all the people I interacted with at Ivy Tech.”
Just as Mary and Molly were nearly finished with their final semester this spring, another young man in the family was involved in a serious accident.
“The last couple of months were very tough,” Mary said. “As a result of that accident my son is a quadriplegic. It’s definitely brought everybody a lot closer, and I’m very thankful that another daughter is studying physical therapy at Ivy Tech. We are definitely and Ivy Tech family. At one time there were five us in my family going to Ivy Tech at the same time, and one son was teaching math.”
Through all the ups and downs that life threw at them, Mary and Molly attended Ivy Tech’s spring graduation ceremony together and were each honored with Associate Degrees in Respiratory Care.
“It was surreal,” Molly, who recently accepted a position with Franciscan St. Anthony Health, said. “I kept thinking am I really here right now, am I finally done.”
“I cried a lot and thought I was never going to make it,” Mary, who is in the process of evaluating her employment options, added. “Molly always beat me on tests no matter how hard I studied. She had the gold cords at graduation, and I was so very proud of her. I was in all black, and it was awesome for me, especially since I had been a hair stylist since I was 18.”
For more info:
Ivy Tech Community College