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3:37 am
Mon May 12, 2014

How Miami Students Got College Degrees Before High School Diplomas

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Reinaldo Camacho finished his two-year degree from Miami Dade College while he was still in high school. He's the first member of his family to pursue post-secondary education.
Credit Mater Academy

Sixty students from the Hialeah area will graduate from high school this month like thousands of others in Florida, but these students have done something remarkable.

They’ll receive their high school diplomas almost a month after graduating from Miami Dade College.

The students took advantage of the dual-enrollment programs offered at Mater Academy and Mater Lakes Academy. These are publicly funded charter schools that operate independently of the district.

Both campuses have large immigrant populations.

“They’re located in Hispanic, working-class, low-income neighborhoods in Miami,” says Lynn Norman-Teck with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools. “So the administrators really started pushing dual enrollment more as a cost saving program for these kids because they could get a lot of college credits out of the way.” 

Classes at Miami Dade College are free to eligible students from any high school who want to participate in dual enrollment.

18-year-old Reinaldo Camacho began college courses before he started 10th grade.

“It was basically a lot of school work, a lot of things to juggle also because of the clubs that I was in,” Camacho said. “It was difficult, but it wasn’t impossible. The teachers were very flexible with me. Everyone was really there to support me.”

Camacho managed the course load along with school activities, volunteer tutoring, and his parents’ divorce.

“It really is a lot of work, but it’s not impossible despite whatever difficulties or struggles you’re going through, ” Camacho said.  He is the first in his family to go to college. He’s heading to Hamilton College in New York as a junior on full scholarship. He wants to be a lawyer.