Riley Figueroa, 17, found her passion for science that she never knew she had through challenging courses and supportive faculty as an Early College High School (ECHS) student at Lorain County Community College.

Riley Figuroa

Figueroa is one of the 66 members of the tenth graduating class of the ECHS combined high school and college experience. Due to her rigorous coursework, Figueroa is graduating a year ahead of schedule, with her associate of science degree and high school diploma.

“Since I’ve been at LCCC, I have discovered just how much I enjoy doing research. Previously, I had never had any exposure to research labs, and I always considered the work to be uninteresting,” Figueroa said. “I learned that this is the opposite of what I thought, but instead research is invigorating and exciting.”

Figueroa and her fellow ECHS students have been working on advanced research as part of the Early Scientist research group. They researched a gene therapy that would prevent the spread of HIV. Figueroa has presented at several conferences alongside researchers from four-year college and graduate schools.

Figueroa plans to attend Colorado College and major in biology, with a minor in math. Ultimately, she plans to earn her medical doctorate and become an emergency room surgeon.

The Lorain resident would like to thank two professors who were especially helpful on her journey. “Dr. Harry Kestler was a huge contribution to my success,” she said. “For the past three years I have been at LCCC, he has helped me nonstop.”

“Amber Gillie is another LCCC faculty who has provided me with nothing but support and assistance,” Figueroa said. “These two faculty are what I mainly contribute my success too.”

Figueroa’s older sister Kennedy is also graduating from ECHS with an associate of the arts degree.