Getting a head start on life

Many students nowadays take a few college courses during their high school careers, but it’s rare to actually get a degree. Two recent MHS graduates, armed with their associate’s degrees, are well on their way to finishing college in record time.

Submitted photo Marshall High School graduates Whitney Schwartz and Annabelle Lecy already had their two-year associate’s degree from Southwest Minnesota State University when they graduated from MHS in June.

MARSHALL — By the time Annabelle Lecy and Whitney Schwartz graduated from Marshall High School this past June, they already had a two-year college degree in hand.

Both Lecy and Schwartz earned their two-year associate’s degree from Southwest Minnesota State University in May after taking part in the post-secondary enrollment options program.

Lecy said her older sister Nicolette was the one who really encouraged her to take PSEO classes in the first place.

“After she graduated from MHS in 2015, Nicolette told me how much she wished she would have taken PSEO classes as a high school student,” Lecy said. “She always said that PSEO would allow me to save money on college credits and also give me the opportunity to experience university-level courses while still in high school.”

Before her junior year, Lecy took her sister’s advice and registered for as many classes as she could at SMSU.

Schwartz said her mother influenced her a lot in her decision to take PSEO classes.

“She told me I’d be saving money and that someday I would thank her,” Schwartz said. “Thanks, Mom.”

When she first signed up for PSEO classes, Lecy want to get her associate’s degree but wasn’t sure if that was possible. She needed a total of 60 credits from SMSU in order to graduate, and she also had to take some classes at the high school.

“In the past two years, I worked very hard trying to figure out how to arrange my class schedule in order to satisfy the course requirements for both schools,” Lecy said.

Getting an associate’s degree was always the goal, Schwartz said.

“I thought if I had an opportunity to get my associate’s degree for free, I would be dumb not to take the opportunity,” Schwartz said.

Lecy really enjoyed the challenge of her PSEO classes.

“Although I was often flooded with long reading and writing assignments, I liked being able to test my mind’s limits in my classes at SMSU,” Lecy said. “I took many English, history, science and music courses because I had to fulfill the degree requirements for both MHS and SMSU.”

In college, Schwartz said she felt like she had more responsibility, and she liked that.

“I had a lot more free time to study,” Schwartz said. Some of the classes she took at SMSU included microeconomics, managerial finance, chemistry, finite math, British literature, American government, intro to computer science, business statistics and academic writing.

One of the most important things Lecy said she learned from her time at SMSU is the importance of planning ahead and staying organized.

“Procrastination in a couple of my classes caused me a great deal of stress; I ended up pulling a few strenuous all-nighters in order to prepare for exams and complete research papers,” Lecy said. “I learned that as long as I kept track of my deadlines and did not wait until the last minute, I was able to achieve good grades, as well as get a healthy amount of sleep.”

Schwartz said when she started PSEO, she stepped out of her comfort zone by attending college classes with people she didn’t know who were older than her.

“I also learned that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything,” Schwartz said.

For Lecy, participating in the SMSU graduation ceremony was a very exciting experience.

“I was fairly nervous on commencement day, but everything went really well, and I had a lot of fun,” Lecy said. “When I walked across the stage and shook President Gores’ hand, I felt proud of myself and relieved to be done.”

This fall, Lecy is majoring in music at Augustana University, and Schwartz is attending the University Minnesota Morris for a degree in management, economics, and a minor in Spanish while continuing her volleyball career.