The camera approaches Ava Garcia ’24 completing homework in the Ninth Grade Center- a favorite spot of her’s to get some work done. (Audrey Parrish)
The camera approaches Ava Garcia ’24 completing homework in the Ninth Grade Center- a favorite spot of her’s to get some work done.

Audrey Parrish

What It Feels Like: Earning an Associate’s Degree in high school

Ava Garcia '24 delves into how it feels balancing being a full-time high school student, student athlete, All-State level musician, having a job and earning an Associate's Degree all at the same time. This entire article is written in the first person narrative of Garcia.

January 24, 2023

Ava begins by explaining how she found out about the possibility of earning an Associate’s Degree in High School.

Initially, my mom had seen a Kirkwood email in my inbox. I remember we were just sitting at the kitchen counter. She saw it and she was like, ‘You can earn college credit while also at high school?’ We joined the Zoom link. The first thing that popped into my mom’s mind after we left the Zoom call was, ‘How many credits can you earn? And how many do you need to get an Associate’s (AA) degree?’

At first, I was a little confused, because I was like, ‘How is that even attainable? Because it sounds like a lot of work.’ It is, because you have to take 20 courses, and I had to jam it in between sophomore and senior year. I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. At first, I didn’t really register how much work it was going to be until I actually started taking the classes.

A lot of the time I’m very overwhelmed.”

— Ava Garcia '24

I was going to take two courses [during the summer] to test it out. My mom said I should only take one to test the waters. I was like, ‘Nah, I’m gonna take two instead. We’re gonna speed it up.’ When I first saw the syllabus, I was like, ‘How many days do I have until I can drop the class before these are permanent on my record?’ [Afterwards], I realized I can miss about 40 points. Then, I was like, ‘Nah, I got this.’ I did not have it; I was struggling. It was balancing work, working eight to nine hour shifts each day, then, I’d go home. I’d have chores at home, and then I’d finally do my work. It was a lot to handle. I should have listened to my mom and just taken one. 

A lot of the time I’m very overwhelmed. I also want to balance the social stuff (hanging out with friends) because I don’t want to go insane. Then you have the terrible Tik Tok addiction. [Sometimes] as I’m doing the homework, I’m like, ‘Okay, this isn’t bad.’ Then I look at the time, and it’s already been an hour and a half and I’m still on the same homework assignment that I thought I understood. Then I’m like, ‘Crap, here we go.’ I have to go back to the textbook and self teach, because a lot of my courses are online. I’m taking two online ones right now, and they’re over math and statistics. I’m having to teach myself everything, so it’s pretty stressful. 

When I’m stressed, I try to tell myself I’m only stressed about one thing. If I’m stressed about school[work], then I’m going to just stop working on school[work] and I’ll go play my trumpet. Once I get stressed about trumpet, I go back to school[work]. I also tell myself I have to finish everything in order to not be stressed. I turn the stress into motivation. If I manipulate it in a certain way, I can convince myself that what I’m doing is good enough and the stress is just there. It doesn’t matter in the end, because once I’m finished with everything, I’m not going to be stressed anymore. Which is a lie, but I lie to myself.

My main enjoyment of [taking college courses] is the end, when I finish it and all the work’s done. I like the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I can say, ‘I did that. All of that hard work and the tears sitting at the kitchen counter. They were all worth it.’ When I see the grade in there, and it says I got three credits, it makes up for all the pain I went through.

I like the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I can say, ‘I did that. All of that hard work and the tears sitting at the kitchen counter. They were all worth it.’”

— Ava Garcia '24

[During] the middle portion [of completing the degree], I was in the zone. Not in a good way, but I was going through the motions. It was my sophomore year, so I was taking AP Biology and AP US History. Those were adding to my load as well. That was just flooding. I was flooding the kitchen with tears. I could barely get through that. I was doing All-State (a state-wide honor band) at the same time, and I was freaking out. 

[What got me through] was that I got to look at the light at the end of the tunnel, just counting down the days until those courses were done, and counting down the assignments until I reached my final exam. I was not a pleasant person to be around my family, and God bless them for putting up with me, because I was not a vibe to be around. The thing that kept me together was just sleeping. I slept so much. I got nine hours of sleep daily, but it’d be random throughout the day. I’d be doing homework until 1 a.m., and then I’d sleep, and then I’d wake up right before my courses would start in the morning, at 7:30. Then, if I got the chance, I’d take a nap right before [Kirkwood] class starts and wake up. If class ended early, I’d take a nap, then I’d hop on the bus to get to school and sleep the way there. I’d show up to school and repeat.

At points, I’m proud of myself, but I still compare myself to other students. In certain subjects, there’s always going to be somebody better. In reality, I’m not doing that much, because others are always doing more. 

I thought about [quitting] a lot. A lot, a lot. I just thought about it like, ‘I’d have all this free time and I’d have so little stress. If I wasn’t doing Kirkwood courses right now, I could just do whatever I want.’ Then I thought, ‘Well, would you really be that happy with yourself if you just threw in the towel now?’ I just thought about how disappointed I’d be, and how disappointed my mom would be in me. My mom was the first one to ever go to college in our whole family. I wanted to make her proud by being able to finish my AA degree, especially since it was her idea. 

I feel the generational pressure, but I also feel the generational support. I know that my mom is always going to be there for me. She really wants this for me too. A lot of the times we talk about it, like, I’ll be out of college sooner, and I’ll make money two years earlier. Everything like that, and all the support she’s given me to just push through. That always helps.

Ava would like to thank Hailey Hebl, Kirkwood Student & Academic Support Coordinator; Jon Weih, Director of the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa; and her mom, Brenda Garcia for supporting her through this degree. 

 

Leave a Comment
Donate to West Side Story
$350
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of West High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase Scholarship Yearbooks, newsroom equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

West Side Story • Copyright 2023 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in

Donate to West Side Story
$350
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All West Side Story Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *