The Odessa AmericanBecause of dual credit, two George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa seniors – Valerie Muniz and Nakima Bryant – will graduate from Odessa College before they graduate from high school.Odessa College’s commencement ceremony is set for 10 a.m. today (Saturday) at the Ector County Coliseum. The college will award more than 750 associate and certificate degrees to the 2017 graduates. A reception will follow the ceremony.The featured speaker will be President and CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges Jacob Fraire.Twelve dual credit graduates will have earned their associate degree and 42 will have earned a certificate before getting their high school diplomas.New Tech’s graduation is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 25 at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.Muniz, 17, will receive her licensed vocational nurse certificate and Bryant, 18, will earn an associate degree in general studies.Muniz said she is trying to decide whether to become a nurse in mental health or pediatric oncology. She’s leaning toward pediatric oncology at the moment.Her father encouraged her to take dual credit courses.“Growing up, my dad always told me the lazy person works twice as hard,” Muniz said. “He told me that if I work hard now, I won’t have to work as hard later on in life and I don’t want that for myself. I don’t want to have to struggle in my adult life to support my family or myself. That’s why I did what I did. I’m graduating with my LVN now in high school.”Muniz said she will take her boards in August and once she passes those, she will be a licensed vocational nurse and be able to work in any hospital. While trying to balance work and school, Muniz said she’ll transition from LVN to registered nurse at Odessa College and then RN to a bachelor’s degree in nursing online from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.Muniz said the OC nursing program is “really good” and focuses on individual students to make sure they keep up and understand basic criteria.“They really motivate you and encourage you when you want to give up,” Muniz added.She added that New Tech is similar with its project-based learning where everybody gets into groups and students learn to interact with others and communicate well. Muniz said New Tech also gives students access to different types of technology, which prepares students for college.Bryant, whom Muniz has known since ninth grade, has always been part of her support group and vice-versa. “If I was struggling in nursing school and I needed that little bit of encouragement from her, she was always there to tell, ‘You can do this. I know you’re going to make a great nurse.’ I really appreciate Nakima for that,” Muniz said.Bryant plans to attend Johnson & Wales University in Miami to study hospitality. The 18-year-old wants to open her own hotel someday.“I want to want to start with something big and then see how that goes and then open more in the same chain,” Bryant said.Both Muniz and Bryant are excited about graduating from OC today. Bryant said it will be kind of anti-climatic commencing from New Tech May 25.“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Muniz said, “but mostly I’m excited to get out of here. Honestly, it just was holding me back a lot. I just want to get right into college and get it over with.”Muniz and Bryant also tout the benefits of dual credit.“I would say if you really want to get a head start in your education, I would recommend that you would get into dual credit and to find a really great support group because you’re going to need it,” Muniz said. “It’s really rewarding at the end and it’s stressful at the time, but you’ve just got to keep going. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. It may not seem like it, but once you get there you’re going to really thank yourself at the end.”Bryant will have two classes to take before she becomes a junior, cutting two years off her time in college.“You save a lot of money and time,” Muniz said.New Tech Principal Gerardo Ramirez said Muniz and Bryant are among a few of the students from his school who have graduated with associate degrees under the dual credit program.“They’re very good kids,” Ramirez said. “… They work hard. I know that both of them were pretty driven to get that associate diploma and it … proves to us that it is possible for our kids to be successful in high school and college at the same time.”Ramirez said staff members from NTO will attend graduation at OC to show support for Muniz and Bryant.

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