High School Graduates Excel with Early Childhood Education: Paving the Way for Future Success


Some text as placeholder. In real life you can have the elements you have chosen. Like, text, images, lists, etc.
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Partnership Prepares Next Group Of Educators
graduates from the program pose with Jennifer Gresko and Kate Smith at the 2023 commencement ceremony

Graduating from high school marks a milestone in young lives, with many ready to explore what happens next. Graduating from high school with career experience and a future path intact is another stepping stone altogether.

With help from their teachers, Rio Salado College and a recently announced partnership with American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, that’s exactly what a group of young students experienced this spring when they completed their certificate of completion in early childhood education, as well as their high school diplomas.

The students from Tempe Union High School District and Deer Valley Unified School District were already taking part in their schools’ career and technical education programs. The scholarships provided through the Institute allowed students to complete the final class or two they needed to finish their certificate of completion through Rio Salado College’s concurrent enrollment program and enabled them to explore diverse career paths in the field of early childhood education.

Alexis Campbell, a Corona del Sol graduate, enrolled in the career exploration program early in her high school career.

“I really want to be like a teacher for younger children, like, around the age of the preschoolers or kindergartners,” she said. “I think it was freshman year when I decided I wanted to take this class. So I realized I really enjoy like working with kids … I realized it was something I was passionate about.”

The program not only enriched their understanding of child development but also provided them with valuable college credits. This credit accumulation will propel them forward as they pursue higher education. 

Fellow senior Addison Lhar acknowledged that advantage, stating, "I’m going to ASU next year … It really puts me ahead for a lot of my classes." 

As part of the program, the students not only took their own classes but taught lessons to children in preschools housed on their high school campuses. The high school students created projects on reading, letters, math or science to present to the little ones.

“I'm gonna miss not seeing them every day because since I had been with some of them so long,” Lhar said. “We've grown like relationships with each other. … I know like they'll have fun in kindergarten and continue growing and I'll come back and visit next year.”

As the end of the school year approached, the seniors eagerly anticipated two commencement ceremonies: their high school graduation and their Rio Salado graduation. Being among the first high school students to complete the Rio Salado College and American Family Institute partnership program demonstrated their hard work and dedication.

“These students made their education a priority, putting forth extra effort to not only complete their high school diplomas but their college credentials,” said Jennifer Gresko, Rio Salado Faculty Chair for Educator Preparation Programs. “I applaud them and look forward to seeing their accomplishments in the future. They are ready to move toward their goals and work toward filling the teacher gap we currently experience. They will provide young learners those necessary early building blocks to success.”

Hear directly from one student in this Twitter video.

Request Information