26May One Dozen Harding High School Students Graduate from Marion Tech with Associate Degrees by Wendy Weichenthal (Marion) Marion Technical College is proud to announce that a dozen Harding High School students are graduating with college degrees through the Graduate Pathways to Success (GPS) Program at no cost to them or to their families. Each student earned a degree worth between $10,915 and $12,580, for a total of $138,565 in tuition at MTC. These graduates include: Haleigh Billups Associate of Arts Ian Bonsel Associate of Arts Nicholas Caserta Engineering Technology – Robotics & Automation Skyler Honaker Engineering Technology – Robotics & Automation Miguel Jaimes Fernandez Associate of Arts Madilynn Motes Associate of Arts Seth Mullins Engineering Technology – Robotics & Automation Chase Plotner Engineering Technology – Robotics & Automation Jaden Smith Associate of Arts Richard Payton Spiegel Engineering Technology – Robotics & Automation Alexus Toombs Associate of Arts Janae Williams Associate of Arts “As a GPS student all of my high school career, I was able to obtain my associate degree the same year as I get my high school diploma. Being involved in so much and still taking high school and college classes was the best experience,” said Jaden Smith, graduate. “I am committed to Ohio Wesleyan University with a $104,000 academic scholarship and will Major in Zoology/Conservation. ” This innovate partnership with Harding High School focused on putting qualified students on the path to an associate degree by high school graduation. Students received additional supports including transportation from Harding to the Marion campus and mentoring. Michelle Spiegel, mother of one the graduates, said, “Our family is so proud of Payton for pushing through these last four years to graduate from Harding High School and to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Robotics Engineering from MTC! Thank you for all the MTC staff and for their support!” Tracy Graham, the mother of Haleigh Billups, said the GPS program was a remarkable opportunity. “The GPS program at MTC is a great program for high school students. As a parent, I only have great things to say. Haleigh started the program her freshman year of High School and continued the program for the next 3 years at no cost to the students. I would personally like thank Mr. Stephen Fuji, Amanda Sivey, Mandy Knight, and Terri Martin for helping Haleigh pursues her dreams,” Graham stated. Earning a college degree was not an easy feat. “Haleigh’s hard work and determination has paid off. I could not be more proud of her!” said Graham. Altogether, 33 Harding students participated in the program. Together, they earned 1,246 college credit hours for a savings of $230,510 at MTC. As these credits transfer to other universities who charge double the cost per credit hour or more, students can easily save more than half a million dollars in tuition at a state college or university. Alexus Toombs tackled high school and a college degree with a 3.5 GPA that earned entry into the National Honor Society and Phi Theta Kappa. “GPS has not only opened many doors for me, but also has allowed me many great opportunities to become ahead in my future career and to get a college experience at such a young age,” Toombs said. “I plan to attend Otterbein University to study Science and Nursing to become a neonatal nurse.” This graduation is meaningful for many at the college, including Amanda Sivey, MTC alumna and GPS program coordinator. She worked with the students every day to make sure they were on target. Amanda Sivey, coordinator of GPS “I have never been more proud of a group of young men and women as I am with the graduating cohort of GPS 2020. They have persevered through much, grown in the process, and all have very bright futures ahead of them. They put in over four years of hard work, grit, and determination to get to graduation – and this is a graduation that will never be forgotten. I wish them all the best of luck in their future endeavors and that they always remember that graduation is not the end; it is only the beginning.” Completing the GPS program and earning a college degree assures the mother of one graduate that her future is bright. “The GPS program has been a wonderful opportunity for my daughter and the students of Harding High School. By participating in GPS and starting college slowly Maddie has learned skills that will help her further her education as well gained her the skills to succeed in high school,” said Katie Herdman, mother of Madilynn Motes. “Thank you to all the hard-working Harding High School and MTC staff that put this together and believed in my daughter’s abilities to be amazing!” A number of students have been awarded scholarships with their track record of success earning college degrees. This program is a partnership between MTC and Harding High School. Kelly Garrett, the Site Director of the GEAR UP program at Harding to encourage students to keep learning after graduation, was excited to see these students succeed. “I am terrifically proud of our 2020 GPS students. They began this journey, forging a path for others to follow, 4 years ago. Now to see this group cross the finish line of not just high school, but also earning their associate’s degrees, is incredible,” Garrett shared. “When this all began, I don’t think any of us could have imagined they would be graduating amidst a global pandemic, but we (and perhaps more importantly, the students themselves) did realize the value of the education they would be pursuing. That education is something that they will now forever have, and it will continue to serve as a catalyst for each of their futures.” The GPS program was started with a grant from the Marion Community Foundation. A $350,000 innovation grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education helped expand the program. It clearly has changed lives. It is being expanded to other schools. “These students had an opportunity and they seized it. They are changing their futures and blazing paths for more students to follow,” said Ryan McCall, president of MTC. Summer online classes start June 1. Summer enrollment is up as students seek to get a jump start on college, earn credits to transfer, or save money and stay close to home. For any students who want to see what it is like to take a class online, a free sample class is available on www.mtc.edu. For more about any MTC program, call 740-389-4636 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.