Posted May 22, 2020
Anna Lewis wanted a challenge.
So the incoming Avon High School freshman asked her parents if she could enroll in a Lorain County Community College class through the College Credit Plus program. Her parents, Dell-Ann and Ron, were familiar with the CCP program because their older daughters had taken a few LCCC classes during their junior and senior years of high school.
They were a bit hesitant to let Anna start CCP courses at such a young age, but knew Anna had always been academically oriented and driven to excel.
“So we told her to figure out what classes she wanted to take her freshman year,” Ron said.
Little did they know, Anna had a plan.
She presented her parents with a detailed four-year plan that included not only taking CCP courses her freshman year of high school but for all four years.
And her plan was built on logic. Anna had always wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor, and she knew that by taking CCP courses she could earn college credits toward an expensive degree at no cost to her parents.
Anna had mapped out a pathway to earning 60 college credits and included regular meetings with an LCCC academic advisor to make sure she was enrolling in classes that met the requirements for an associate degree in science.
From the very first course – Introduction to Psychology – Anna knew she was on the right path.
“I fell in love with it,” she said of the CCP program. “I knew that taking college classes throughout the rest of my high school career was right for me.”
But it wasn’t a stress-free road; not that Anna expected it to be.
“Taking college classes in high school is not meant to be easy. It took me a while to get used to the coursework and the time required,” she said.
And as Anna’s course load and difficulty level increased throughout her high school years, so did her involvement in extra-curricular activities. At one point, Anna was on three cheerleading squads, president of the high school SADD club, working part time, and doing volunteer work.
To do it all, she took classes online, on campus, and over the summer. That meant spending more time in her room studying and less time with her friends.
Sometimes it seemed like too much.
Anna admits now that she probably didn’t get as much sleep as she should have during her time in high school. She was tired in more ways than one.
“There were times when Anna would get tired of studying all the time or get frustrated when she was taking a more challenging class,” Dell-Ann said. “We would remind her that she was a 14 or 15-year-old girl taking college level classes. We told her to just do her best.”
In addition to her parents and sisters, Anna leaned on the student services office at Avon High School and her professors and academic advisor at LCCC for additional encouragement and guidance.
And it was during a meeting with her advisor, Andrea Horning, that Anna could see – on paper – herself closing in on her goal.
“She told me that if I kept on track, I would earn my associate of science degree by the time I graduated high school,” Anna said.
And that wasn’t all. She also learned she was just one course shy of earning an associate degree in arts too. Anna plans to take that course this summer to earn her second associate degree in August.
“I am super excited. It’s been a very long journey to get here and I am proud of myself that I made a goal, stuck to it, and achieved it,” Anna said.
Anna is eager to celebrate her accomplishments this spring, alongside her family and fellow Avon High School and LCCC graduates. But she admits, neither ceremony will be what she or her parents had imagined four years ago.
“To say that ending Anna’s senior year of high school and her first two years of college during a pandemic has been easy would be a lie,” Dell-Ann said. “The events we had hoped to celebrate with her have been cancelled, rescheduled, or done alternatively. And we are sad that she cannot walk across a stage to get her high school and college diplomas.”
But they all know that these celebrations will continue and will be momentous all the same.
“We’re grateful to both institutions that they have supported the students and have offered alternatives to the end of the year events,” Ron said.
Anna actually found the online graduation ceremonies a little satirical.
“I took about half of my credits at LCCC online, so it is kind of ironic to me that I will be graduating online as well,” she said.
As she waits for her cap and gown to arrive at home, Anna is brainstorming how she’s going to decorate her cap. For three years now, LCCC has encouraged graduates to decorate their graduation caps with words and images of pride, motivation, and thanks.
“I keep coming up with new ideas on how to decorate it. I’d like to highlight my educational journey so far on half of the cap and my future education on the second half,” Anna said.
As Anna prepares for her special days, her parents are taking it all in.
“Our family has come to appreciate the little things and to truly be in the moment,” Dell-Ann said. “The little moments, that in the past would have been just been a simple occurrence, have become celebrations for Anna and our family.”
They have a lot to celebrate. After graduation, Anna will attend The University of Toledo to finish her bachelor’s degree in biology. And then she’s off to medical school to fulfill a life-long dream.
“We are so proud of her. Words cannot describe how incredibly proud we are of Anna’s accomplishments,” Ron said. “We are looking forward to what the future holds for her.”
Anna is too. And when she looks back, she knows it all started with a plan. It wasn’t always easy to stick to it, but she never gave up.
“When I faced many obstacles, I picked myself up, refocused and continued,” Anna said. “I gave up a lot but taking CCP classes has given me a great foundation of my future.”