On May 6, four South High School (SHS) seniors will be a part of Kansas State University Salina’s commencement ceremony and on May 14, they will be at SHS’s graduation. All four will earn associate degrees while in high school. The graduating students are:
- Adrian Aranda- Applied Business Associate Degree
- Roman Dalme- Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology Associate Degree
- Isaac Martinez- Applied Business Associate Degree
- Aidan Sankey- Web Development Technology Associate Degree
Aranda, Dalme, Martinez and Sankey are the first four Salina Public Schools (SPS) students to graduate with both credentials. “These four exemplary students show how a robust Individual Plan of Study and hard work can lead to affordable success while in high school,” said Dr. Curtis Stevens, Director of Secondary Education.
The associate degrees will be earned through the PolyCATS Academy, a partnership program between SPS and K-State Salina that offers industry-recognized credentials, college credit for general education requirements and dual credits for an associate degree during high school. The cost of credits, when taken through PolyCATS Academy during high school, is reduced.
The experience has been a good one. “This degree is a stepping stone to my future because I am planning on going to college to get my bachelor’s degree,” said Martinez. “Earning this degree has prepared me for college classes, and it has saved me two years of deciding on what I am going to major in.” Martinez will earn his applied business associate degree.
Sankey, who will earn the Web Development Technology Associate Degree, explained, “I think it’s great to earn a degree when I’m still in high school. It makes me passionate to go to class every day since I know the courses I’m taking have bearing on my future career.”
In addition to the degree, Sankey accomplished personal growth as well. “I have become more organized and more aware of my time management,” reported Sankey. “Most of my courses are creating different projects, with or without a team. This process requires timelines and benchmarks of when I should have certain pieces finished. It is remarkable how much planning goes into each project.”
Aranda, who will earn he Applied Business Associate Degree, had a similar experience. “I’ve shown personal growth by keeping myself accountable to complete the work and staying dedicated to my studies while still putting effort and attention to everything else going on in my life.”
Dalme, driven by the chance to accelerate his plans, will earn his associate degree in electronic computer engineering technology. “What motivated me was the chance to be two years ahead and to take classes I am more interested in,” he explained. “The degree puts me two years closer to my bachelor’s degree in electronic and computer engineering and will help me get a career as a circuit board drafter.”
“We are so excited,” said Rosalie Bonilla, Dalme’s mother. “If anybody could do it, I knew it would be him.” His parents learned about the opportunity to earn an associate degree at a meeting with Dr. Curtis Stevens about the PolyCATS Academy
“Creating opportunities that help set our students up for success in life after high school is a priority at SPS,” said Linn Exline, SPS superintendent. “We remain focused on college and career readiness for all of our students.” Postsecondary experiences continue to grow at SPS. In the 2022-2023 school year, more than 85 industry-recognized credentials were offered to SPS students through Salina Area Technical College and Kansas State University’s Salina campus. More than 200 SPS high school students enrolled in at least one dual credit college class and 1,890 enrolled in at least one technical or application level CTE class.
All four students agree it was a great experience. What advice would they offer to their peers? “I would tell the student to definitely take the opportunity,” said Aranda. “Not only is the cost much cheaper, but you also get a head start on your career, and you make great relationships with educators and other students.”
Martinez encourages others to take advantage of the opportunity. “College classes are not as intimidating as most people think,” said Martinez. “The professors are very nice and willing to help you if you have questions on anything so don't be afraid to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Bonilla is planning a dual graduation party for her son, to celebrate the graduations from K-State Salina and SHS. “We’re very proud of him,” she explained. “We’re having to explain this accomplishment to a lot of people who just don’t know this opportunity is available.”
Salina Public Schools is working to raise awareness of postsecondary opportunities. A meeting was held in early April with a gathering of more than 30 people that included seventh and eighth grade students and their parents or guardians.
“I would tell a student that taking college courses isn’t an easy road, but it’s an excellent opportunity,” said Sankey. He acknowledges that the homework load is higher than a regular high school class and that it can be stressful at times. “Still, I’ve had a great time and I do really recommend taking these courses if you’re a person interested in further education.”
To learn more about the PolyCATS Academy at K-State Salina, contact the Office of Admissions at 785-826-2640 or email@example.com or the high school counseling departments at Central High School, 785-309-3636 or South High School, 785-309-3715