Double achievement: McHenry County high school students earn MCC associate’s degrees, diplomas at same time

Program gives students an opportunity to graduate high school with an associate’s degree

Huntley High School dual degree graduates Addison Raistrick, Amanda Sarrol and Kyle Kane pose for a photo at Huntley High School May 9, 2024.

In the front row at Huntley High School’s graduation next weekend will be students who will have already walked across a stage in a cap and gown this commencement season.

Those students include the District 158′s first dual-degree graduates, who this month are not only earning their high school diplomas but are also graduating with associate’s degrees from McHenry County College. Those students are due to participate in McHenry County College’s graduation ceremony Saturday before and then officially completing their high school careers next weekend at Huntley’s ceremony.

McHenry County College officials said 54 students – including 18 from Huntley, nine from Harvard High School, 11 from Woodstock High School and 16 from Woodstock North – will be dual-degree graduates this spring.

District 158 officials said students in the program begin work over the summer between their sophomore and junior years of high school, and also do coursework the following summer between their junior and senior years.

“We had tried to start this [probably] eight years ago,” said Shelly Kish, associate principal at Huntley High. She added some of the teachers in the dual-degree program had to go back to school themselves and get specialized master’s degrees before being able to teach the classes.

Woodstock District 200 was the first school system in McHenry County to unveil a dual-degree program, doing so in 2019. Harvard District 50 followed suit, and Huntley announced its participation in 2021.

“We think the program is going extremely well,” said Christina Haggerty, McHenry County College’s vice president of marketing, communications and development.

Among the 18 Huntley High School dual graduates this year are Kyle Kane, Amanda Sarrol and Addison Raistrick.

Kane plans to pursue a career in firefighting, while Sarrol has a goal of being an anesthesiologist and Raistrick is hoping to be a teacher.

“I knew I would get ahead from it,” Kane said. He has plans to go through EMT school and the fire academy but said he still wants to have an advanced education.

Sarrol plans to attend the University of Illinois in the fall for biochemistry and pre-medicine. She’s hoping to attend medical school.

“Shaving off some years [of schooling] would save me a lot of money,” Sarrol said.

Raistrick plans to become an English teacher but doesn’t have a university picked out. She said she is still awaiting financial aid information before committing to a school.

“FAFSA was a mess,” said Laura Martens, Huntley High School’s college and career counselor, referring to the form students have to fill out to get their financial aid, whose overhaul this year has been rocky, leading to students being unable to submit their forms.

During her time at Huntley High, Raistrick said she participated in extracurricular activities and had a job in addition to her studies. She ran track and cross country, but doesn’t plan to suit up for any college team. She participated in Huntley High’s teacher signing day recently, for students aiming for careers in education. A similar signing day event was held last week at Woodstock North High School.

Raistrick also had the opportunity to shadow some of the district’s teachers, including at her old middle school, Marlowe, in Lake in the Hills.

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