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Early College Students Prepare To Graduate From LMC

April 23, 2013

13 Students Earn Degrees or Certificates Prior to High School Graduation

NILES, MI – When Sarah Lighthart is asked “what will you do after high school?” the Niles High School senior has a quick response. 

“I’ll be studying biochemistry with a concentration in forensic science at Cedar Crest College.”

Lighthart is more prepared than some of her peers, as she will be one of 13 students at Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossing campus who will earn their associate’s degree or certificate of achievement before they graduate from high school. The students are part of the Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy, which allows them to earn college credit, and in some instances full associate degrees, while spending time at Lake Michigan College.

“I’ve had to be a bit more studious than my high school classmates because the work is more challenging,” Lighthart said. “But I’ve also gained more experience in what college will be like, while having a lot of fun.”

Since the program began in 2010, nearly 100 students have participated in the Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy and, including this year, 16 will have graduated college prior to their high school graduation ceremony. The current class will make up the largest number of graduates the program has ever produced in one school year. Brandywine High School senior Caitlyn Cummins has had a great reaction from family and friends when they learn of her unorthodox collegiate accomplishment.

“I guess people don’t think that students our age can set our minds to something this huge and actually accomplish it,” Cummins said. “They’re really shocked and proud of us.”

According to Barbara Craig, executive dean at the Bertrand Crossing campus, the ability for academically prepared teenagers to get the college experience while in high school is beneficial academically as well as financially. South Berrien County high schools who partner in the program pay the students’ tuition and fees associated with the courses, and in some cases, even pay for their textbooks. 

“To date, we have helped Early College students and their parents save upwards of $500,000, when you compare LMC’s costs to the first two years of a public or private four-year institution,” Craig said. “That makes a world of difference in helping these kids succeed after college with limited debt.”

Buchanan High School student Taylor Sokoloskis will receive two degrees from Lake Michigan College, an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Science, after completing 75 credit hours through the Early College Academy. She will attend Albion College in the fall and dual major in biology, and either computers or education.

“It’s an amazing program. I credit so much of what I’ve been able to accomplish in school and where I’m going to BCECA preparing me for that,” Sokoloskis said. “I feel like I’ve grown tremendously as a person in the last two years. There’s so much to be said for the social learning you get, as well as the educational experience.”   

Craig believes the Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy will continue to grow year after year, helping high school students in south Berrien County get a solid head start on college life, while still at home.

“It's a rare accomplishment to pull off a full degree before high school is over. They should be applauded for their diligence and determination. This kind of managed acceleration of the educational path is a good way to keep the best students engaged,” Craig said. “We’ve seen success with students transferring these credits. We are interested in building a body of "alumni" who will keep us informed of their inevitable success, help us inform and improve the program, and reach out to those who come after them.”

To learn more about the Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy at Lake Michigan College’s Bertrand Crossing campus, contact (269) 695-1391 or visit

LMC Bertrand Crossing Early College Academy Graduates: 

  • Brenten Bunde-Shau       Brandywine High School
  • Caitlyn Cummins            Brandywine High School
  • Alissa Gamble                Brandywine High School
  • Magdalina Hildebrandt    Buchanan High School
  • Sarah Lighthart              Niles High School
  • Joseph Lindamood          Buchanan High School
  • Kelsey Miltenberger        Niles High School
  • Patience Newman          Brandywine High School
  • Taylor Sokoloskis           Buchanan High School
  • Mariah Srmek                Brandywine High School
  • Lukas Strang                 Niles High School
  • Victoria Toney               Niles High School
  • Kyle Zelmer                   Buchanan High School
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