Sierra DeWalt, a 17- year-old home-schooled student from Ayer, hopes to earn a high-school credential around the same time she earns an Associate Degree, thanks to Middlesex Community College's Dual Enrollment Academy.
Two orientation sessions for the Middlesex Dual Enrollment Academy, which allows qualified high-school and homeschooled students to earn college credit while satisfying their high-school graduation requirements, are coming up. The first is Thursday, Jan. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the Bedford Campus Center's Café East, 591 Springs Road, and the second is Wednesday, Jan. 17, from 5 to 7 p.m., in the Federal Building Assembly Room, 50 Kearney Square.
A resident of Ayer, Sierra has acted in several independent student films, speaks French and is looking forward to learning Italian. She studies karate and dance, and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for two-year colleges.
Now she can add "student member of the MCC board of trustees" to her already impressive résumé.
Sierra, who turns 18 in March, was elected to the board last spring. As the "student voice" on the board, she wants to make sure students feel comfortable on campus - especially in light of recent proposed changes to U.S. immigration policy. "It's important that all cultures feel welcome here," she said.
Sierra began homeschooling as a sixthgrader. What started as a temporary arrangement became permanent, once DeWalt was old enough to attend high school, to allow her more flexibility to audition for acting projects.
But acting has moved to the back-burner now that she has focused on earning an Associate Degree, then transferring to a four-year school to study English Literature. Three years ago, during what would have been her sophomore year in high school, Sierra enrolled in two courses at Middlesex. She was 15.
"At first, I was kind of nervous," she said. "I wondered if everybody would know I was in high school. But I found that I could keep up. So after I had that little bit of confidence, it made it easier to make friends and participate in class.
"I like the diversity of the student population here at Middlesex, and all the professors I've had have been really good - and really dedicated," she added.
As her confidence has grown, so has her course load. Last year - what would have been her junior year of high school - DeWalt enrolled almost full time at Middlesex. She hopes to earn an Associate Degree this summer, about the same time she receives her high-school diploma.
For more information about the Middlesex Dual Enrollment Academy, visit www.middlesex. mass.edu/dualenroll, or contact MCC's Academic, Career & Transfer Center at 800-818-3434.