COOS BAY — Not every high school student has the drive the complete one Associate’s Degree, let alone three.
But for Ethan Smith, he walked away from Southwestern Oregon Community College’s graduation ceremony on Friday, June 14 with an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer, Associate of General Studies, and an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice.
In addition, he is one of SWOCC’s co-valedictorian’s, which means he maintained a 4.0 GPA.
The recent North Bend High School graduate, who earned his high school diploma June 7, is one of 15 high school students receiving degrees from SWOCC this year.
“I’m excited and overwhelmed,” Smith said of the college graduation. “I wanted to give myself the strongest base to further pursue my bachelor’s degree and eventually transfer to law school, which is why I did this.”
Smith had spent part of his high school career taking dual-credit classes, but learned about the expanded options and upward bound programs just before senior year.
“I told myself, ‘If these resources are available, why not use them?’” he remembered. “It was stressful taking classes while going to high school, but I enjoyed the classes on campus. A lot of them were at night, which made it interesting.”
To get everything finished, he had to push himself. His regular day began at 5 a.m. when he would start studying before school, after which he would head to work and study while he could because he had internet access there when he didn’t have it at home. Then he would head home and study until 11 p.m.
However, he said the most difficult part of completing his three associate degrees and his high school degree was scheduling the classes. High school courses are one hour, while a college course is roughly 45 minutes long.
“That messed things up,” he laughed.
Now that he has accomplished his goal of earning three associate degrees, he is moving on to Oregon State University in September. While there, he will major in sociology with a criminal justice option and is looking forward to having the chance to study what interests him most, not just the required basics.
“I finally can dive deep and focus on something,” he said.
Once he graduates from OSU, he plans on staying in Oregon even through his law school education because, as he said, “Oregon is home.”
“Growing up, I was very involved in 4-H raising pigs and had a lot of support from this community,” Smith said. “I want to come back.”