Though students at Sharyland Advanced Academic Academy are receiving their high school diplomas Thursday, June 11, almost all of them will also be receiving their associate’s degree from South Texas College.
Out of the 85 graduating seniors in SA3’s graduating class, 65 of them are earning an associate’s degree in the fields of interdisciplinary studies, engineering, math, biology, business and criminal justice.
“We are also at 100 percent graduation rate with our seniors where all of them will be moving on to an institute of higher learning,” SA3 Principal Ivan Karr said. “Not everyone got into the college of their choice but as an academy, our goal is for all of our graduates to receive their diploma and we have been doing that for the last three graduating classes.”
Since opening in 2014, SA3 has schooled students who are also taking college classes along with their regular high school work and participation in extracurricular activities. Its first graduating class in 2018 saw 90 percent of its seniors receive an associate’s degree.
Last year, the percentage was at 85 and this year, 77 with 65 students, Karr said.
“We’re very proud of them to be able to graduate,” Karr said. “This year the rate of students receiving an associate’s degree was at our lowest but that doesn’t take away from the success of our students.”
Karr attributes the new percentage rate to several students from the graduating class of 2020 transferring from SA3 to the Sharyland high schools.
“There was a change in scheduling at the start of their high school career where the students in the Academy could not participate in athletics or extracurricular activities during the school day due to the coursework they were taking on,” Karr explained. “Because of that they could only devote their time before and after school to those activities and it was too much for some of them. But several students still stayed and worked it out. We are proud of how they were able to overcome a lot of obstacles like that.”
Among the obstacles faced by the students was the cOVID-19 pandemic which shut down all schools and cancelled the commencement ceremony for STC, preventing the 65 students from receiving their associate’s degree.
“They’re a strong, resilient group who keep going and fighting to work and do what it takes to reach their goals,” Karr said. “They have to sacrifice a lot. There’s a lot of time and commitment that they put a lot into their academics and extracurricular work. They leave for half a day to attend classes at STC and then come back to participate in these extracurricular activities. It takes dedicated students to understand what is needed to succeed in all these areas.”
Though their STC graduation ceremony is indefinitely postponed, the 85 graduating seniors in the SA3 class of 2020 will move on to several other colleges that range from Ivy League schools, in state schools and local universities.
“We’re extremely proud of them, we will continue to support and guide them,” Karr said. “They understood the vision and mission we had for them and trusted us to guide and support them in this effort in making sure we were able to help them reach this goal of obtaining an associate’s degree and high school diploma. It’s a process.”