Graduation Spotlight: KWHS student walks in FKCC graduation - A person sitting at a park - Student
Leila Nolan will take the stage at FKCC graduation as the only student graduating from the Dual Enrollment program this cycle. CONTRIBUTED

It isn’t often that a student completes a college-level degree before receiving her high school diploma. But that’s just what Leila Nolan will be doing this Friday, May 3. The Key West High School senior will walk in FKCC’s graduation and receive her associate’s degree a month before walking in KWHS’ ceremony. 

Nolan’s dad is an Irish immigrant who met her New Yorker mother in Key West. “It’s a unique place,” she said, “and I’m glad to have been born in this melting pot.” 

Nolan has participated in FKCC’s Dual Enrollment program, which is free for Monroe County high school students (tuition, books and fees) and allows students to get a head-start on college credits finishing high school.

That’s not to say it’s easy—but it is rewarding. 

“While it was a social pull to drive back and forth from the high school to the college, I’m so glad I did it,” said Nolan. “I knew it was going to help me in the future, and so I think of the long term instead of the short term.”

Nolan took AP classes as well as Dual Enrollment classes, attending five classes at the college per semester, while continuing with two classes at the high school throughout the years. She also teaches piano lessons to kids for Bahama Village Music Program, played in the KWHS marching band and steel drum band, and won third place in the state’s solar energy competition.

While she already has an impressive resume, Nolan credits FKCC for helping prepare her for the independent role she anticipates at the University of Florida. 

“I’m grateful I have the Dual Enrollment program, because it’s preparing me for college. At the high school, they are more on top of you about your work. At the college they allow me to be more independent, so it’s pushed me to success in a way.”

Nolan also credits her dual education with further immersing her in her chosen field. 

“I’ve had teachers like Dr. Irwin, and I want to study biology, so he’s been fantastic.” She’s headed to the University of Florida to study biology and wants to become a genetic engineer. 

Leila Nolan is just one success story. The Dual Enrollment program gives many high schoolers the opportunity to complete core classes before enrolling in a larger university with bigger classes. It also offers time to acclimate to being a college student: how to develop an academic plan and access available resources. 

Florida also enjoys a statewide course numbering system, which helps students like Leila seamlessly transfer credits from the college to a state university. 

More information is at

Florida Keys Community College Graduation
Friday, May 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Tennessee Williams Theater on the Key West Campus

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