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A Shining Example of Success in Rural Education

High school Graduation is an important milestone in the life of every student, but graduating seniors in Morenci, a rural mining town of about 2,000 citizens southeast of Phoenix near the New Mexico border have extra cause for celebration. This year, nearly one in five Morenci High School seniors have earned an Associates Degree in addition to completing their high school education. Morenci is doing big things to improve opportunities for its graduates. Bluum is proud to share their story so other rural districts can learn from their success.
by David Woodall
15 Morenci High School Seniors were all smiles at Friday night’s Eastern Arizona College Commencement Ceremony where they received their Associate Degrees in General Studies two weeks before they will graduate from Morenci High School.  These 15 seniors represent 18% of Morenci High School’s graduating class of 2017, and there were many who graduated with high honors. These students completed their college degrees over the past two years while attending high school.  Although some classes were offered at Morenci High, others were taken online or through schools interactive television lab, while some required catching a 5:30 a.m. bus daily to nearby Thatcher or traveling to night classes.  Students agreed that it had required much sacrifice, being more resourceful with their time and giving up activities they would have liked to participate in.
When asked how it felt to be receiving a college degree prior to graduating from high school, the graduates had a variety of thoughts including “Very proud, appreciative, relieved, ” and even” kind of weird”.  All were thankful for the tuition assistance offered by Morenci Schools and thought it provided much motivation as well as increased parental pressure.  Merissa Mendoza and Mckayen Johnson thought it was a great opportunity that required being careful with your time and although challenging would encourage others to pursue this opportunity.   Maddie Olmsted who frequently caught the 5:30 a.m. bus, noted that it had been a difficult two years but with a degree in hand felt it was worth it. Most of the graduates had plans to complete a four-year degree, Shelby Aguallo is heading for NAU to pursue a pre-law program while Gabriel Castillo planned to pursue a degree in Science Education at the University of Arizona.  Destinations of the graduates also included New Mexico State, Arizona State, and Tabor College
In addition Sabyn Martinez, Alyssa Murillo and Shae Sanchez received their Arizona General Education Certificate (AGEC-A).   This is awarded to students who complete all the requirements for an Associate Degree except electives.  These students are guaranteed that 35 hours will transfer to an Arizona University four-year degree program.
Photo: Proud Morenci High students receiving their Associate Degrees. Bottom Row: Jose Cazares, Gabriel Castillo, Jordan Ortega, Marco Rojas, Shelby Aguallo and Marcus Aguallo. Top Row: Marissa Webb, Merissa Mendoza, Aaliyah Manuz, James Williams, Myles Miranda, Madelyn Olmstead and Elyssa Vigil. Not Pictured: McKayen Johnson and Alyssa Garcia
David Woodall is the Superintendant of the Morenci Unified District

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