College Now

Student earns college degree before High School diploma
Posted on 01/21/2013

A Poplar Bluff student has managed to complete her associate degree requirements before receiving her High School diploma, as a result of a partnership forged last school year with Three Rivers College.

During the community college commencement ceremony in May, Adrienne Burfield will join High School classmates Vicky Bottorff, Zachary Miller and Shallyn Ward, each of whom are participating in the College Now program. Also among this initial group are Riley Greenwall, Anslee Latourette and Zachary Vincent, although their credits will only serve to lighten the load when they transfer to a university.

“All of them have been a pleasure to work with and I am excited to see where this path leads them,” said Manda Reynolds, Three Rivers coordinator of academic and outreach services.

For High School students who meet the prerequisites, the College Now program is designed to allow them the option to knock off their 42-credit-hour general education requirement with the Poplar Bluff R-I School District and Three Rivers each covering one-third of the tuition costs, allowing parents the opportunity to save money.

Especially ambitious students can work with their High School guidance counselors and college academic advisers to enroll in additional classes around the semester in order to earn the final 20 credits toward their two-year degree.

“I’ve taken online classes, summer classes, winter classes, Maymester classes… Last semester I took 21 credits,” explained Burfield, who is taking even more college courses this spring semester. “My nose has pretty much not left a book.”

In December, Burfield, 18, was the first PBHS student to complete the dual credit program due to the flexibility of support staff at both educational institutions, her supportive parents and having been born with a rare degenerative condition of the eyes that has given her the drive to work extra hard at such a young age, she revealed.

Burfield is in the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, having maintained a 4.0 grade point average, in spite of the retinal disease, which progressively causes her central vision to dissolve. While having to read in intervals in dim lighting to avoid eyestrain means it takes longer to study and write papers, she said the real possibility of going blind has caused her to not take the precious vision she still has for granted.

“You have to make the most of life,” she said. Burfield is a spokeswoman for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, a research organization she hopes will one day find a cure for people affected by redegenerative retinal disease, which includes her 22-year-old brother Alex Burfield.

Making sure Adrienne meets average daily attendance and not become “disconnected” from High School has been a challenge, according to PBHS Principal Mike Kiehne, but he said it helps that Three Rivers is right across the boulevard.

Adrienne keeps a “survival kit” of protein bars and bottled water in her vehicle for days she does not have time for lunch, she said. There have been days when she has had to arrange for a car ride from her parents to the community college campus to avoid spending time locating a parking spot.

With plans to enter the baccalaureate program at the University of Missouri in Kansas City’s School of Medicine, Adrienne will take a year off prior so she can pursue her acting dreams in New York City. Adrienne’s father Bill Burfield Jr., will accompany her in the Big Apple upon retiring as PBHS assistant principal at the end of the school year.

“We don’t want to have any ‘What ifs?’” said Adrienne’s mother Linda Burfield, a clinical pharmacist at the John J. Pershing VA Medical Center. Besides having a passion for helping children, which she intends to satisfy in the pediatric care field, Adrienne—a 2012 Miss Missouri Teen United States semifinalist—said she has always enjoyed being in front of the camera.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education allows dual credit courses to be taken to earn high school and college credits simultaneously, if students score high enough on the COMPASS placement test their sophomore year. College Now provides even more incentive to do so.

According to Patty Robertson, R-I assistant superintendent of curriculum/instruction, the aim of the partnership is to “eliminate barriers so the students at the highest level can be as successful as possible.” Often, much focus goes into making sure students are proficient at achieving state benchmarks, but on the other side of the spectrum, gifted students must be provided the academic stimulation needed to realize their full potential.

“Our mission is, ‘Every child, every day,’” stated Chris Hon, R-I superintendent. “We don’t want cost inhibiting students from receiving the enrichment they deserve.”

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