INA, IL (KFVS) - A southern Illinois high school senior walked across not one, but two graduation stages on Saturday, May 14.
Marcela Mendez received her high school diploma from Benton Consolidated High School and also her graduate degree from Rend Lake College.
She's one of a handful of students to accomplish this: enrolling in college-level classes at RLC during their high school years.
Juggling basketball, volleyball, and a part-time job, Mendez said it was stressful but she made it happen.
"I hit it hard my junior year with some general classes. I talked to Nicki Bowlin (former RLC Academic Advisor) and she told me how I could get college credit with some classes," Mendez said. "I knew someone who graduated from RLC her senior year, and I asked her how she did it. She told me about dual enrollment, and I thought, 'I can do that too,' and I just jumped into it.
I knew I could do this if I plan it out in a certain way, and it's been a neat experience to have the opportunity to go this far at a young age," she said. "Hopefully it will be for the best."
Mendez says right now her parents are in the process of becoming legalized citizens.
"My sister and I are both wanting to go to a bigger university to continue on our education, but the universities are asking for verification documents, and it's a struggle because we don't have them," Mendez said. "I have to jump in and see where it goes from here."
This fall, Mendez plans to study bilingual education at either Millikin University or Southern Illinois University Carbondale to study bilingual education.
Her dream is to work in translating or teaching English as a second language.
For more information about Rend Lake College's dual enrollment programs, you can contact Academic Advisement at 618-437-5321, Ext. 1266.