Against All Odds: Dual Student Earns 2 Degrees Despite Formidable Health Woes


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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Image of student in cap and gown with words Rio Salado College Congratulations Class of 2024 Alondra Ordonez

As one of the 303 high school seniors who earned an associate degree or certificate at Rio Salado College’s 2024 commencement ceremony, Alondra Ordonez knows a thing or two about motivation.

She is also very familiar with overcoming adversity, conquering challenges and staying the course.

Rio Salado offers dual enrollment courses for highly motivated high school students to get a head start on college.
Ordonez, who attended Heritage Academy in Laveen, AZ, was keen to participate.

“I chose Rio’s dual enrollment program as it was provided by my high school,” Ordonez said. “It interested me because I could complete my first two years of college at the same time as my high school diploma.”

High school students earn college credits for dual enrollment classes taken at their school. Credits earned can then be transferred to Rio’s 40+ university transfer partners to be applied toward a bachelor’s degree program. 

Ordonez completed her first degree, an associate in arts, in 2023. What made this accomplishment even more remarkable were the health issues she endured while going to school.

“I was facing two major medical disorders, and completed many final exams while in the ICU (intensive care unit),” Ordonez said. “Taking a five-to-eight-week course was a mental challenge, however, I knew I was prepared with the support of my family.”

This is My Moment

In May 2024, Ordonez completed a second degree, an associate in general studies. She proudly and confidently walked the stage at Rio’s commencement ceremony this spring.

“Commencement was definitely a world of emotions,” Ordonez said. “Graduating, that moment meant everything to me, being able to push through after being paralyzed and in the ICU for over three months.”

“It was also symbolic because I am the last granddaughter and the only child to graduate ahead of time,” she said.

While she was in the ICU and taking classes, Ordonez learned the importance of planning and communication.

“One tip I have for other online students is to have time management skills,” Ordonez said. “I would always ask questions, whether via email, phone call, or in-person. Every one of my Rio instructors has been diligently helpful.” 

As Ordonez has an interest in the biomedical field, it is not surprising her favorite Rio classes were anatomy and chemistry.

“My favorite classes at Rio were BIO 100, BIO 160, and CHM 110 because they solidified my idea of becoming part of the medical field,” Ordonez said. “The classes were interactive, with labs providing proof of the facts instead of just a lecture hall.”

Ordonez plans to continue her education at Arizona State University in an accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degree program. Her current career goal is to become a pediatric surgeon.

“My degrees from Rio helped me advance my future by allowing me to be confident in transferring to a four-year university,” Ordonez said. “They also allowed me to have ambitious goals, such as achieving my master’s without adding additional years of education.”

Ordonez is grateful that Rio Salado was there in her time of need, and happily recommends the college to others who may need flexibility for their educational pursuits.

“Rio Salado was developed for everyone, to fit anyone’s schedule, from the early bird to the night owl,” Ordonez said. “They support everyone. For those who know their career path, Rio offers classes taught by professionals in the field. Those who are undecided can find their passion through the variety of class offerings.”

By Mira Radovich, Senior Contributing Writer