While their classmates were plotting plans for a two-week winter break break, two Columbus seniors were sizing up life options as recent graduates.
Claudia Lee of Columbus North and Megan Purdue of Columbus East were among 47 Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. seniors who completed their high school studies as midterm graduates.
At age 17, the two former White Creek Lutheran School classmates are charting different next steps.
“I left North, knowing I’m never coming back,” said Lee, a straight-A student. “I knew this was going to happen. But I still found myself walking away and thinking about what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”
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Lee expects to get several more hours from her employer, JayC Foods in the Westhill Shopping Center, before she begins classes at Ivy Tech Community College on Jan. 17.
Her employer is willing to work with whatever her college schedule is, and has told her she will have a job at the supermarket as long as she wants it, Lee said.
While her current plan is to major in visual communications, Lee said she is considering switching to photography. After completing her studies, she hopes to continue her education at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis.
At East, Purdue — who graduated with a 3.6 grade-point average — was chatting with other students about her early departure Dec. 21 when their art class ended.
“I was kind of excited, but also a little bit sad,” said the daughter of Brian and Annette Purdue. “While most in that class were more acquaintances then friends, I knew at that moment I’d never see any of them in the same way again.”
But that wasn’t her final responsibility before leaving the campus. She had to attend one last study hall in order to make up work due a day earlier while she was home sick, Purdue said.
Although Purdue plans to eventually study elementary education, she said she is ready to take a temporary break from academics.
Currently employed at both Faith Lutheran Preschool and the Abercrombie and Fitch store in the Edinburgh Premium Outlets, Purdue hopes to get in as many works hours as possible over the next several months to help finance her college education, she said.
The two are among an increasing number of students nationwide graduating months before their peers, BCSC Superintendent Jim Roberts said.
In Columbus, mid-term graduates often cite a desire to take several months off to work and earn money for college — or to get a collegiate edge over their classmates, he said.
For both Purdue and Lee, the most important benefit of graduating early is the sense of self-satisfaction it brings.
“My greatest accomplishment was doing this, so I can get an earlier start on the rest of my life,” Purdue said.
Lee said she would recommend that all students capable of handling the challenge attempt to follow in her footsteps attempt.
“It’s a really big achievement to say I graduated early because I applied myself,” she said. “To say I did this on my own.”
There are a number of incentives to finishing high school early:
- Earning college credit by taking a mix of community college and advanced-placement high school courses at the same time, which can save thousands of dollars on tuition and books.
- With a lot of work and planning, some students can actually enter their first year of college at a sophomore status.
- Gaining the ability to pursue academic excellence at a higher education institution when high school no longer provides a challenge.
- Displaying a dedication to studies that could help a student get accepted in some of the country’s most prestigious universities.