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Waco ISD seniors earn associate degrees before high school graduation

When Waco High and University High hold their graduation ceremonies, 30 students will be graduating for the second time. Even before graduating from high school, those students earned associate degrees from McLennan Community College through ACCELERATE, Waco ISD’s early degree program.

This year’s graduates are the first cohort to complete the program created after voters approved increasing the district’s total tax rate by five cents in 2015. A portion of that tax revenue was dedicated to expanding dual-credit opportunities, and as a result, Waco ISD high school students can take dual-credit classes through McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College-Waco at no cost to their families.

“This community made a significant investment in its high school students giving them the opportunity to earn college credit and an associate degree at no cost to their families,” Dr. Scott McClanahan, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said. “Our students take that very seriously. We have a 95% passing rate in our dual-credit classes, and we’re on track to have 45 more students earn associate degrees next year.”

During their eighth-grade year, Waco ISD students can apply to the ACCELERATE program. Once selected, they choose from one of five degree pathways:  allied health, general business, criminal justice, general science transfer and liberal arts transfer. Beginning their freshman year, ACCELERATE students take a mix of high school and dual-credit courses. By their senior year, the majority of their schedule consists of dual-credit classes, many of which are taught at McLennan Community College.

Waco High senior Anastasia Reyes is an ACCELERATE graduate and one of four students earning an associate degree with a 4.0 grade point average for the courses that they took through McLennan Community College.

“It feels amazing,” Reyes said. “All the hard work, the late nights, they actually paid off. … Staying home and doing my work, I knew it would eventually pay off, and it has.”

After graduation, Reyes, who was in the liberal arts transfer pathway, will enlist in the Navy. She plans to return to college after serving in the Navy and complete a four-year degree on her way to becoming a teacher or social worker.

“I am proud of every senior graduating tomorrow, but I am particularly proud of the 30 students who seized the opportunity to earn a college degree while getting their high school diploma,” Dr. Hazel Rowe, interim superintendent, said. “Education opens doors. There’s no doubt that these students will use their education in the service of a brighter future – not just for them but for all of us.”

The Waco High School Class of 2019 will graduate at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the Ferrell Center at Baylor. University High School’s graduation starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday also at the Ferrell Center. Both ceremonies will be broadcast live on WISD-TV (cable channel 17) and online at