Vermilion Community College graduate heads to Harvard, one of about 250 dual graduates from high school and MnSCU

Posted: May 31, 2007

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

When 18-year-old Tesia Hanson of Ely enters Harvard this fall, she will do so after graduating from Ely High School and Vermilion Community College at the same time.

She is one of about 250 high school students who have accumulated enough college credits this spring at a Minnesota state college or university to earn a two-year associate degree, a diploma or a certificate.

Under Minnesota's Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, known as PSEO, high school juniors and seniors can take college courses and earn college credit without paying tuition and fees through one of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Students can use the same credits to meet high school and college graduation requirements simultaneously. Each year, nearly 20,000 Minnesota high school students take college courses through the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

During the last two years, Hanson, who earned an Associate in Science degree, took courses in chemistry, biology, physiology and anatomy and calculus, among many others, at Vermilion Community College, which is part of the Northeast Higher Education District.

"I liked my high school and there are a lot of cool teachers there but Vermilion Community College was a way to challenge myself," Hanson said. "I'm thinking I want to be a doctor. We got to do a lot of dissections. We did pigs and cats. It was awesome."

Hanson recommended that high school students consider taking PSEO classes. "You have to have more discipline than at the high school. Nobody's babysitting you. But if you're disciplined enough, it can be a great experience," she said.

Pete Doran, her instructor in biology and physiology and anatomy, said: "She's off the charts in terms of academic ability. And though community colleges are well known for helping underprepared students succeed in college, Tesia is a good example of how a community college can meet the needs of the most academically talented students as well."

Her father, Kevin Hanson, said of the PSEO program, "It's a fantastic program and we couldn't be more thrilled. We are blessed that our daughter could take advantage of it. She really enjoyed it." Hanson's older sister also was a dual high school and Vermilion Community College graduate in 2005, he noted.

"The majority of these PSEO students are extremely strong academically," said Deidra Peaslee, dean of educational services at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Cambridge. "They are organized and focused on their future. In a word, they are impressive." Anoka-Ramsey Community College had nine dual PSEO graduates this year.

She pointed to Herman Antonov, a senior at Forest Lake High School and sophomore at Anoka-Ramsey's Cambridge campus. "Herman emigrated from Germany nearly three years ago and is now well on his way to completing a bachelor's degree," she said. "He has been accepted into the University of Minnesota with the goal of completing a bachelor's degree in business."

At Rochester Community and Technical College, 12 PSEO students earned their high school diplomas and associate degrees. Four students were graduated from the college with high honors and two were graduated with honors. Two other PSEO students earned certificates - one in retail merchandising and one with honors in equine science.

"The beauty of the PSEO program is that students can take college-level courses that suit a wide range of interests," said Linda Baer, the system's senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs. "Many students go on to complete a four-year degree, but students who complete a post-secondary career program, often move directly into a good job."

For example, Ashley DeGeest of Staples is graduating from Staples-Motley High School and Central Lakes College with a diploma in the automotive technology program. Eric Swenson of Lake Benton earned a high school diploma as a home-schooled student and graduated from Minnesota West Community and Technical College with a diploma in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning program. And Carlissa Baker was graduated from Lakes Area Charter School and Alexandria Technical College with an Associate in Applied Science degree in computer programming.

Students enter the PSEO program for a variety of reasons. Anna Bergfalk, 18, who is graduating from Osseo Senior High in Maple Grove and earned an Associate in Arts degree at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, said, "I thought I should take advantage of the state paying for my college education as much as possible, especially since tuition has been substantially increasing in the past few years.

"I also wanted just a different experience from high school. As much fun as I heard high school was supposed to be, I decided that something else was in store for me. Things were a little rocky at first, but I felt that I soon fit right in.. I was meeting older adults who grew up halfway around the world. This was one of their first opportunities to get an education, and they were excited about it, which got me excited for learning," she said.

Melanie Irwin, 17, of Maple Grove, found the PSEO program a natural progression after her home schooling experience. The coursework at North Hennepin was demanding, but "it seemed like a great opportunity to challenge myself during my junior and senior year in high school and really bring my education to another level," she said. Irwin plans to study journalism at the University of Iowa with the goal of becoming a magazine editor. "Almost all of my credits earned at North Hennepin Community College will transfer, which will help tremendously," she noted.

Students can take courses on a state college or university campus, through Minnesota Online, the system's portal for online programs, or at their local high school.