Local high school students can graduate with an associate's degree thanks to a free program at Drake State Community and Technology College.
River Hermina is one of those students. He's homeschooled but is going to be a senior in high school, and is taking three STEM courses in the fall. Hermina's goal is to work in one of the largest growing tech hubs in the United States, that being Huntsville, Alabama.
When Hermina graduates high school, he'll already be a junior in college. In the spring, he will of completed his associate's degree.
"Now I’m really looking towards software development or something to do with coding," said Hermina.
Hermina has already taken several STEM courses last semester. The Dual Enrollment Program at Drake State has given him the tools for success at such a young age.
"Doing these classes, I’m able to learn basics in computers, how to operate them, basics in cybersecurity, basics in coding," said Hermina.
Dean of Students, Dr. Nicole Bell, said the program is free because of a Workforce Development Grant provided by the Alabama Community College System.
"College expenses are very high right now, and to be able to receive an associate's degree and continue to a university without any type of debt, that’s awesome, he can go right into his junior year," said Dr. Bell
Previously, high school students had to take a career-technical class to be eligible for the program. Now, with Huntsville being a hot spot for tech companies, the Alabama Community College System is allowing dual enrollment students to focus on just STEM courses.
"We really try to push them in those STEM areas because we know that’s where the growth is," said Dr. Bell.
Hermina said he's looking to stay local for college, but he has big dreams for his tech career, and now, he's one step closer to reaching them.
"It’s going to help me be able to get into colleges easier, since I already have the experience, the credits, and continue with that," said Hermina.
Enrollment is now open for high school students in Madison County and parts of Morgan County. Students can be in 10th, 11th or 12th grade. Classes start on August 16.