Brittany Holst was right at home talking to students at Southwest Early College High School. (Photo: Shirley Jackson)

by Brittany Holst

(Brittany Holst was Brittany Jackson when she contributed to The New Tri-State Defender as the iTeen reporter. Now she’s married and helping a local company with its logistics. Recently, she spoke during the pinning ceremony at Southwest Early College High School.)

I remember 12 years ago walking onto this very campus to attend my first day of high school. I had no clue what to expect, but I knew that my life was about to change.

At the time, Middle College High School was housed on this campus and one of the things that drew me to the school, aside from the small class sizes, was the fact that I had an opportunity to take free college courses and possibly graduate high school with an associate’s degree.

Before I took my first college course, I would pass by the college students on campus, wondering what it would be like to sit in a class with them and get a firsthand look at what college would be like once I graduated high school. Well, I took my first college class during my junior year … I remember bragging about the opportunity to my friends, who attended other schools, because it gave me a sense of pride.

If we had to take math, English, science, history and elective classes anyway, why not kill two birds with one stone and get college credits as well?

At the beginning of my senior year, Middle College moved into a building across from Christian Brothers University, where I spent my entire senior year taking college courses. …(The) courses …taken at Southwest Tennessee Community College combined with the courses taken at Christian Brothers allowed me to graduate high school and start college officially as a second-semester sophomore.

I had to adjust and make sure I managed my time wisely in order to be successful in both sets of classes – high school and college. Now, don’t think I didn’t step back and enjoy being a high schooler because I did! I was a cheerleader, a dancer, ran track and cross-country, was a member of the bowling team and played softball.

On top of all of that, I graduated valedictorian of my senior class. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

When I started at Christian Brothers University I was thrilled about the fact I could graduate in 2 ½ years instead of four. I chose Christian Brothers University because 1) they offered me the most money, 2) their reputation, and 3) the fact my college credits attained in high school would transfer. … I did not want to have to retake courses I’d already taken.

Taking free college courses while in high school saved my parents and I a ton of money. It also allowed me the extra freedom to have a lighter course load each semester, retake classes that I may have wanted a better grade in or extra classes I was interested in that may have been outside of my major curriculum. I was able to add a minor to my major without having to stay in school an extra semester.

I recommend to each of you, take advantage of this opportunity to take college courses. It’s free. It teaches you a lot about yourself and you will discover new things that interest you, and also learn about things that are not of interest to you.

If you can graduate high school with your associate’s degree, you can get out in the workforce and start your career early. Everyone loves money right? Set yourself up for a good job to earn it. And a word of advice: plan your budget and always include a savings plan for yourself….

Take advantage of this opportunity!