Five high school seniors—four from Canton and one from Macomb—received an associate degree from Spoon River College at the Commencement on May 12, making them college graduates even before they had officially received their high school diplomas.

Trista Buskirk, Abbigale DeRenzy, Joshua Fuller, Anna O’Brien of Canton and Arbiana Kidriu of Macomb all took advantage of the college’s dual credit program that allows eligible high school students the chance to get a head start on their journey in higher education.

Buskirk will be transferring to Penn State Behrend to major in psychology and minor in either sociology or criminal justice and is deciding between a career as a criminal psychologist or a counseling/clinical psychologist. “Two of the most influential courses I took were Intro to Sociology and Contemporary Social Problems taught by Michael Maher. It changed my entire world view in just sixteen weeks.”

DeRenzy plans on majoring in elementary education with the goal of teaching kindergarten, although she hasn’t made her final choice yet of what university she will attend. She said psychology classes were her favorites. “Becky Leverette was the teacher and she always made class interesting and even though I took them online, she made it a point to get to know me as a student and made class feel like I was actually there.”

Fuller is transferring to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and will major in plant biotechnology and integrative biology. His ideal career would be working with plant genetics but he said he would also be content working in a botanical garden or similar environment. “Taking dual-credit classes saved me so much money. Credit hours at Spoon are a fraction of the cost at other colleges, and since all of my credits transfer, I basically completed two years of college for an eighth of the price.”

Kidriu, who will be the valedictorian at her high school graduation and plans on a career as an international lawyer, said she appreciated criminal law class Professor Jill Myers for reaching out to her to offer opportunities that she could pursue after high school. “It was not easy for me to get my associates degree the summer I graduate from high school, but it was worth it. I am a full-time high school and college student, and I also work around 30 hours a week. I had summer classes and will also be a full-time student this summer in order to fully complete the requirements. It required a lot of sacrifices, but I am happy and proud of my accomplishments.”

O’Brien is transferring to the University of Missouri St. Louis to major in political science and minor in Spanish to prepare for a future career as an immigration lawyer. Despite the extra class load, O’Brien made time for extracurricular activities at both the high school and the college, including being the president of the Student Government Association at Spoon River College. She was also the student representative on the Canton Area Chamber of Commerce and the CUSD66 School Board. “I had to find a balance between high school, college, a job, extracurricular activities, and a social life. It is for sure a lot of work but it pays off in the end!”

For more information about the dual credit program, visit

High School Seniors Receive Associate Degrees
High School Seniors Receive Associate Degrees