LCCC gave Grafton’s Mikayla Stephens the challenge and opportunity she needed to pursue her academic dreams

Mikayla Stephens needed a new challenge. When she began high school four years ago, she often completed her coursework at Midview High School in Grafton early, taking on additional assignments from her teachers. And she was losing the spark that had always made her so excited about learning.

A high school guidance counselor suggested Stephens take a college-level math course through Lorain County Community College’s College Credit Plus program. And very quickly, her spark was reignited.

Stephens’ father, Ray Stephens, says the coursework was just what his daughter needed to fuel her passion for learning.

“She loved her classes, professors and the college and its culture,” he says. “It awoke her love of education and challenged her to be a more organized and diligent student.”

Tackling a new challenge

Taking college-level classes as a high school student was challenging and stressful — and exactly what Stephens wanted.

“I had to get used to the pace of a class that moved much faster than I was used to,” she says. “I had to do a lot of homework and more studying than I was used to.”

The College Credit Plus program is difficult, and instructor Kathryn Dobeck says all students, Mikayla included, struggle at first with the accelerated workload.

“You have 16 weeks to learn what might have taken you a full academic year in high school,” Dobeck says. “That’s where that two or three hours outside of class for every hour spent in class comes from. Emotionally it can be difficult. They start to question, ‘Does this mean I’m not good enough for this?’ I say, ‘No, everyone goes through this. This is normal. We’re changing the game on you.’”

“I had to get used to the pace of a class that moved much faster than I was used to.”
Mikayla Stephens

Stephens says Dobeck played a big part in her success.

“She was always open to having me talk with her about any issues I was having and to seek advice and guidance that could help me do better in her class,” she says. “She was always open to helping me.”

For Stephens, that help and all of her hard work paid off last May, as she received an associate of science degree from LCCC and, a few weeks later, graduated from Midview High School. In December, she earned an associate of arts degree.

Today she is studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Cleveland State University via LCCC’s University Partnership.

“It’s crazy that I was nearly 19 going into my junior year of college,” Stephens says.

Once she earns her bachelor’s degree, Stephens plans to earn her master’s degree and become a board-certified psychologist.

“I want to study individual behaviors and determine what may be causing those behaviors,” Stephens says. “I want to help people.”

Never give up

Ray Stephens is proud of his daughter’s drive to succeed and of what she has already achieved at such a young age.

“Mikayla completes the task just to prove it’s possible,” he says. “We have always told her she can complete anything she sets her mind to. She knows she has a support system at home that is constantly encouraging her to push further and work harder.”

That support system has taught her to never give up. Her drive to succeed and make a difference comes from her father, whom she says has taught her many valuable lessons.

“He always taught me to not give up, to push and to persevere, as rough as it gets,” Stephens says. “That will benefit me in the end.”

And Stephens’ father says her hard work will pay off financially for the family, as well, because the College Credit Plus program allows students to earn college credits without paying tuition.

“She completed the associate of science degree program while still in high school, earned 64 college credits and completed a majority of an associate of arts program,” says Stephens, who also graduated from LCCC. “She will graduate from college with zero student loan debt and transition to adulthood not having to worry about student loan payments. So many young adults do not consider this when making college choices. They don’t realize the gem they have in their own backyard.”