Desoto High School seniors will walk the stage at graduation at the end of the month.
Dozens of those students are going to be walking out of high school with a college degree as well, thanks to a district program that is helping many first-generation college students get a head start.
Pictures of students have been placed on a wall near the school’s Advances Academics Suite.
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Students like Christopher Fierro strike a pose in their cap and gown, proud of their accomplishment.
“After being here so long it’s just the feeling of just being able to say: I made it,” said Fierro.
The 18-year-old really has made it.
He’s already a college graduate after receiving his associate’s degree days ago.
Fierro is one of 83 students who are the inaugural graduating class of Desoto Independent School District’s ‘Early College High School.’
Each student began taking classes at Cedar Valley Community College as high school freshmen.
“We were in class with other adults that were actually there at the college and it just felt like: Can I do this,” he wondered.
Angela Batiste is the principal of the district’s Early College High School program.
The students in the program have received more than $4 million in scholarship money and many are first-generation college students.
“Many students come in not having come from a family of educators, that they know college and so it’s a whole teach piece,” said Batiste. “We teach how to craft an email, we teach how to communicate with your instructors, we teach study skills, we teach everything but we have a lot of fun.”
Fierro says his mother encouraged him to join the program when he was a freshman.
Silvia Parra is an immigrant who received a college education in Mexico.
“I’m very proud of my son,” said Parra. “He’s very talented, intelligent. I really love him and he’s amazing.”
Not only has the teen juggled high school and college life, Fierro even runs his own dance studio and Mexican folkloric dance group that has traveled across Texas and other states.
“Dancing has been a stress reliever for me,” he said.
A new chapter will soon begin at the University of Texas at Austin for Fierro.
He plans on majoring in business and expanding his dance studio.
Desoto High School graduation is May 31.