By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
OAKLAND COUNTY — Are you aware that there is an early college in Oakland County and students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree while completing high school?
In 2023, a total of 12 Clarkston students graduated from ACE (Accelerated College Experience) and OTEC (Oakland Technical Early College) and received their high school diploma and a college degree. These students start in 11th grade and go one year after their high school class graduates.
Clarkston’s Abigail Petterson graduated from ACE with 64 completely transferable credits to any university in Michigan. She chose to stay at Oakland Community College and was accepted to the nursing program almost two years ahead of most students.
“I chose to enroll in ACE because I knew it would give me more opportunities and it gave me a chance to get ahead,” Petterson said. “I was kind of against it at first just because I wouldn’t be at the high school full-time, but it was definitely worth it
“I’m now technically two years ahead, yes. My main goal was to apply to nursing school early and OCC’s nursing program is cost-efficient, but difficult to get into because the cohorts for associate’s programs are small, but I was accepted into the program. Since I will graduate in 2025, I’ll only be 21 so I plan on going back to school to get my BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). I would like to work in the ER for the majority of my career.”
ACE is an Early College program, and these programs are three years long, adding a 13th year to a student’s education. Students apply to the program during their 10th grade year of high school and apply to both the Oakland ACE program and Oakland Community College. Once accepted to both, students and families participate in several information and orientations to prepare to begin the program the following year. Beginning in 11th grade, students enroll in both high school and college courses. Students also attend a weekly class on OCC’s campus taught by Oakland ACE’s early college success coordinator/counselor.
“ACE ace allows you to choose if you want to be in-person or online,” Petterson said. “Because I started during the pandemic, I was fully online my junior year, but for my senior year, I chose to do both online and in-person classes on campus. ACE was very flexible and gave us a lot of freedom to learn what being a college student means.”
Technically, Petterson graduated in 2022 with the rest of her Clarkston class. She walked at Pine Knob Music Theatre and did all the senior things because she did not return back to the high school for her 13th year.
“However, I didn’t receive my diploma until this past May because in order for Clarkston Community Schools to pay for a third year of college, I still had to be a student there. One high school graduation requirement was withheld so I wouldn’t receive my diploma and I completed that credit at the college my first semester this year.
“ACE students were then required to do something called MEMCA (Michigan Early/Middle College Association), which is a specific number of hours in things like job shadowing or volunteering that allowed me to have a diploma that says I graduated on time (in 2022). I first walked at the OCC graduation in May where I received my associate’s degree in Arts. Then three days later, ACE and OTEC held a ceremony at Oakland Schools where I then received my high school diploma.”
Petterson offered advice for any students or families that may be identifying ACE as an option.
“My biggest advice for anyone looking into being an ACE student is that they should definitely take the big step,” said Petterson. “I was nervous at first because it was a huge change. It’s kind of scary walking into your first day of college as a 15-year-old knowing no one in your classes and seeing that everyone is older than you, but after the first week, you learn everyone is there for the same thing, an education, and you can learn so much from your peers.”
Read more on OTEC in an upcoming edition of The Clarkston News.
PHOTO: Clarkston was well represented at the 2023 OCC graduation from left, Ashley Campbell, Kimberly Campbell, and Abigail Petterson. Photo: Julie Zemnickas