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Degree Now and College Now graduates jump from high school to junior college year

May 13, 2021

Nine area high school students will be accepting not only their high school diploma but also a college degree this spring. 

Heartland Community College’s (HCC) Early College Opportunities programs make it possible for students to graduate with a high school diploma in one hand, and their associate’s degree in another. 

The Heartland College NOW dual credit program was created to place more in-district high school students on a guided path towards successful college degree completion. Two accelerated variants of that program, College NOW+ and Degree NOW allow students to actually complete that college degree at the same time they receive their high school diploma.  

“For students who know they want to pursue a college education and want a cost-effective head-start, these partnerships provide them that pathway,” said Alauna McGee, HCC Director of Early College Opportunities. “Additionally, Heartland’s pipeline admissions agreements with Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan make it possible for local students to earn their associate’s degree in high school, then seamlessly transition to these acclaimed local universities after graduation.” 

Two groups of graduating high school seniors are using the program to jump start their career at a four-year school. 

The College NOW+ program is available to any high school student in Heartland’s District who is ready to take college courses while in high school. Students work with a Heartland academic advisor to leverage AP and dual credit courses offered in their high school alongside additional courses they take at Heartland, Students complete as many credits as they are ready for up to completion of the associate’s degree. The following three students completed the full degree:   

College NOW+ graduates:

  • Sophia Lindenfelser (Normal Community High School), will be attending Illinois State University
  • Henry Evans (Normal Community West High School), will be attending Illinois Wesleyan University
  • Owen Shi (Normal Community West High School), will be attending The University of Illinois 

While the College NOW+ experience is available for students in any program of study, the Degree NOW program was created in collaboration with State Farm and is specific to students who seek a degree in computer science. The schedule is strictly prescribed and includes extracurricular activities and students take all their classes together in a cohort. The Degree NOW program is currently offered at Normal Community, Normal West and Olympia high schools. The program was launched at Normal West in 2017, and this year that inaugural class will graduate six students with both their high school diploma and their Associate in Computer Science. 

Degree NOW graduates:

  • Kyla Garner, will be attending Colby College
  • Noah Moss, will be attending Illinois Wesleyan University
  • Katrina Phillips, will be attending The University of Illinois
  • Brady Veal, will be attending Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
  • Miguel Velasco, will be attending Lawrence University
  • Amber Waninger, will be attending Illinois State University 

All six of these students will be attending Heartland’s socially-distanced diploma ceremony on May 14th. For more information on HCC’s virtual commencement, visit

To learn more about Heartland’s Early College Opportunities programs, visit

Written by: Steve Fast