Ashli Garnett has more than earned her summer vacation.
The Dayton teenager earned a college diploma on May 6 from Sinclair Community College.
The Dayton teen walked across the stage to receive her diploma from Paul Laurence Dunbar Early College High School.
The 18-year-old is the first Dunbar student to earn an associate's degree at Sinclair Community College as part of a partnership between the Dayton Public Schools high school and the college designed to better prepare students for their post high school lives.
Ashli, a track standout, will enter Southern University at New Orleans this fall as a junior.
She loved the challenge that came with her college studies.
“The brain is a muscle and you have to work it out like every other muscle,” Ashli told this news organization. “The whole thing was amazing. It helped me reach this independence and maturity level.”
In 2014, Dunbar launched its partnership with Sinclair Community College.
Through the program, students are given the option of earning an associate’s degree while pursuing high school diplomas.
Dunbar has about 590 students. About 110 are taking college courses in the high school or on Sinclair’s campus.
Funding comes from Ohio’s College Credit Plus, which helps student take college courses from community colleges and universities.
Dunbar Assistant Principal Tiffany Ray-Bozeman said Dunbar students have earned thousands of college credit hours since the program launched, including the 386 earned by 39 of the high school graduating seniors this year.
Bozeman said the partnership helps students and their parents financially.
It also helps them in terms of preparedness, she said.
Bozeman said students are given skills to conquer the anxieties that often come with freshman year and navigating college life.
“They get all those bumps and bruises done here with our support,” she said.
Bozeman said Ashli, the daughter of Christopher Garnett and Shanaun Simpson of Dayton, is a standout who remained active at Dunbar while studying at Sincair.
She is Dunbar’s 2018 salutatorian, sings in the choir and is on Dayton Public Schools’ Student Senate.
Garnett, who plans to study communications in New Orleans, also has a job and volunteers at 5K races, many of them charitable.
“I always try to stay busy,” said Garnett, who earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts.