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2022 Guilfoyle graduate earns associate degree

Jaden Quinn takes a photo of classmates prior to the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School baccalaureate service at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on Friday evening. Quinn graduated magna cum laude from Mount Aloysius on May 13. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Jaden Quinn graduated from Bishop Guilfoyle High School on Friday, but it wasn’t the first time she’s donned a cap and gown this spring — on May 13, Quinn graduated magna cum laude from Mount Aloysius and now holds an associate degree in liberal arts and science as well as her high school diploma.

While it’s not unusual for students to take college courses along with their high school classes, Quinn started taking college classes in her freshman year and is the first from BG to receive a college degree while still in high school.

“It’s a humbling experience to graduate from both BG and the Mount,” she said. “It was really fulfilling.”

According to Mount Aloysius, one other high school senior received a Mount degree during the May 13 commencement. Forest Hills’ Connor Wysocki graduated summa cum laude with a degree in industrial production technology. He won’t graduate high school until June 2.

“Jaden and Connor were the first to graduate from our College in High School Partnership program from BG and Forest Hills,” said Deanna Hamilton, Mount Aloysius record and registration specialist, who said the program is also available to Clearfield High School students.

Quinn’s grandmother is thrilled with her accomplishment.

“The opportunity was there, and she decided she was going to do it,” Cathrine Vorndran said.

Quinn found out about the program before she started her freshman year and decided to give it a try, because not only would she be able to get college credits, she would get those credits at a discounted rate.

It’s a cost and time savings venture, Hamilton said, and grades are transcripted on both the high school and Mount Aloysius transcript.

“Students who complete this program are ready to succeed at the college level and beyond,” Hamilton said, as the coursework helps students with critical thinking and leadership skills. It also helps students connect with their community through service opportunities.

Quinn said she learned a lot about time management, because in addition to the college level classes, she continued to play the piano and took part in cross country, basketball and track during all four of her high school years.

“She is a very hardworking and ambitious person,” Vorndran said. “The fact that she is 18 and has accomplished so much already is really amazing, and I’m so proud of her.”

The daughter of Dave and Tabitha Quinn, the now high school and college graduate credits her family for supporting her endeavors.

“My family is proud and always pushes me to do my best,” Quinn said.

“Jaden is a high achieving student that takes on all kinds of opportunities,” school counselor Tori Wilsoncroft said. “I’m excited to see where her professional career leads.”

Quinn plans to attend the University of Central Florida for a degree in mechanical engineering and will start orientation the first week of June. Classes begin the following week.

She plans to get her bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in biomedical engineering as her dream career is to work in the prosthetics field.

On top of that, she will join the ROTC Air Force in the fall, inspired by her older brother, John Nicolini, who is in the Marines.

Quinn said she has kept herself motivated by looking toward her future goals.

“I just take everything step by step, and I know that I can use what I learned toward my future education,” she said.

College in High School Partnership

The College in High School Partnership program is fairly new, Hamiliton said, noting Mount Aloysius has about five students who graduate with two degrees each year.

Mount Aloysius also offers another dual enrollment program in which students take college-level courses taught directly by their high school teachers. The college currently partners with over 70 high schools in this program.

“Our dual enrollment program grows each year and in the 2021-22 school year, over 1,700 participated in the program,” Hamilton said.

Credits earned through the program can be applied to a Mount Aloysius degree or may be transferable to other colleges and universities.

Dual-enrollment programs

Area high schools, such as Altoona Area, Hollidaysburg and Central, also partner with colleges to offer dual-enrollment programs.

Depending on the school district, partner colleges may be Penn Highlands, Mount Aloysius, Saint Francis, Juniata and the University of Pittsburgh, school officials said.

For instance, Penn Highlands’ dual-enrollment program allows students from 49 school districts in the state to earn credits while in high school, according to Kay-Leigh Malzi, associate dean of school partnerships.

She said 32 students graduated from the college with an associate degree from Greater-Johnstown and Richland school districts in Cambria County, Penns Manor and United in Indiana County, Mount Union in Huntingdon County and Conemaugh Township in Somerset County.

Dual-enrollment “is not that widespread yet, but we are seeing more students becoming interested in it every year,” Malzi said.

This year, Malzi said the school served about 1,425 students who earned college credits but did not graduate with a degree. More than 10,000 students have taken advantage of the program since 2011, she said.

Mirror Staff Writer Cati Keith can be reached at 814-946-7535.

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