Her friends told her she was crazy to do it.
She threatened her mother that she was going to drop out of high school.
“I was bored,” MHS senior Katie White explained over lunch at her favorite Marathon restaurant, Frank’s Grill.
Her high school graduation is slated for Thursday, June 3, but this will not be the first time Katie’s donned a cap and gown. On May 3, she graduated from Florida Keys Community College with an Associate in Arts degree. This fall, she’ll continue her studies at Johnson and Wales University in North Miami.
In her freshman and sophomore years at Marathon High School, Katie had already completed all the dual enrollment courses – ones through which a high school student can receive credit for high school and college classes – available to her at Florida Keys Community College’s Marathon campus.
Her mother, Carmen Acker, CFO of Fishermen’s Hospital, said Katie had been working with Dr. Kathy Sympson at MHS for quite some time through the Alpha program. When they approached her about Katie’s educational options, Dr. Sympson had a surprising suggestion.
“She didn’t want to do accelerated graduation and finish a year early,” Acker recalled. “She wanted to graduate with her classmates.”
What Acker didn’t anticipate was the option of two years of paid tuition, books, and lab fees on the state’s tab.
The decision was a no-brainer.
“I think it was a positive step for her to take,” she continued. “She’s always excelled at her classes, and she wasn’t challenged at the high school.”
Katie’s only expense was the drive to Key West for classes. She also opted to take the maximum class load of 23 credit hours.
Not only was she getting a head start on her college career, Katie could also still participate in the typical high school activities like playing on the soccer team, participating in Z-Club and National Honor Society. She even took on extracurricular activities at the college and became active in Pi Theta Kappa and Sigma Alpha Pi, the National Society of Leadership and Success, in which she facilitated a workshop on time management and listened to a speech from the head of online business, www.Zappos.com.
“That was really cool,” she remembered.
Typical of the initial college experience, Katie began her classes with sights set on a career as a pharmacist. Her organic chemistry class proved the pivotal point for a change of course.
“I always loved baking cookies, and one day, a friend and I were baking cupcakes and experimenting with fillings,” she explained. “My mom said, ‘Hey, why don’t you try to make a living baking?’ and I didn’t really think a whole lot about it at first.”
Then Isabelle Thompson, currently a student at Johnson and Wales and fellow member of MHS Class of 2010, introduced Katie to the career-focused university that combines academics with relevant work experience.
“She was always looking at what could make her money,” her mother remembered. “Her personality tests at high school directed her to fields like finance and accounting, but I told her she needed to do something that she loved.”
So when Katie told her mother that she intended to decline her full scholarship to Nova Southeastern in pursuit of a Bachelor of Management with an Associate Degree in Baking and Pastries, Acker was at first taken aback.
“I told her she’d better start applying for more scholarships!” she laughed.
Katie’s already got her sights set on returning to her hometown to open her own business, a bakery specializing in wedding cakes.
“There’s no other bakery here, and that way, I can really focus on my business and not have to worry about competition,” she said proudly. “My friend’s dad has already told me that if I bake fresh bread, he’ll be my best customer!”