Van Buren teen graduating high school and college this year

1 month ago

VAN BUREN, Maine — Addion Davis of Van Buren will receive his high school diploma and an associate degree in liberal studies from a state university campus this year. He is 16 years old.

Davis, who aspires to have a career in finance, said he started taking college courses as a high school freshman. He was motivated to double-up and take college classes because it would help him obtain scholarships and boost his chances of getting into a top-tier university.

Davis has completed his online college classwork through the University of Maine at Machias, and will graduate from Van Buren Secondary School on June 7. He will not be able to get his degree until later this summer, however, as he technically needs to first receive his high school diploma.

What Davis is accomplishing is rare in Maine. University of Maine System Director of Government and Community Relations Samantha Warren said the average student who participates in the early college program finishes high school with six college credits, or the equivalent of two classes. 

Christy Alley, Advising and Success Coordinator for the University of Maine System’s Early College Team, said Davis earned 64 credits and took 21 different classes.

Warren said 4,724 high school students in Maine enrolled in early college courses this past fall, but only a handful, such as Addion, are set to finish high school with enough credits for a college degree.

Warren said the program’s goal is to raise college aspirations and increase postsecondary degree attainment. It also reduces overall student loan debt, as the state will pay for 12 credits per year, or 48 throughout an entire high school career.

“Using State appropriation, the Maine Department of Education reimburses UMS for approximately half the credit hour rate,” Warren said. “And our public universities waive the remaining tuition balance and all fees. The rare student who takes more than 12 credits a year pays for those additional college credit-bearing courses.”

She said they do not have any data regarding the number of students earning full degrees through these programs, but added that these courses are gaining popularity among Maine high schoolers. She shared a recent college enrollment report, which shows a 32 percent increase in early college enrollment from high school students compared to five years ago.

Alley said Davis’ case is certainly rare, and that UMM is only handing out three or four other associate degrees to high school students this year.

Alley worked as the Director of Early College at UMM while Addion was enrolled, and said he initially set out to get an Intro to College Studies certificate, which amounted to about five courses. But they later realized that he could potentially obtain an associate degree while in high school.

In addition to earning a high school diploma and associate degree, Davis participated in varsity sports at Van Buren and extracurricular activities including the National Honor Society, Future Business Leaders of America, and the JA (Junior Achievement) Titan Challenge, a simulation-based business competition.

Despite his immensely busy schedule, Davis said he has no problem managing his time.

“It’s just what I do,” he said. “I think I’m pretty good at time management. The college classes don’t really affect me. I get my work done. I dedicate one or two days a week to do my college work and then I do my schoolwork during the week.”

His hard work appears to be paying off.

As of late January, he has been accepted to the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and San Diego State University. He is hoping to get into either the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) or the University of Southern California. He said those schools will respond to his application in March.

“I want to do finance,” he said. “And then I want to go into investment banking.”

Davis said that, while looking into careers, he was drawn to finance, accounting, and business.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I just found myself looking into it, and I thought it would be good for me.”

His favorite high school classes include accounting, math, and business communications.

As for college classes, Davis enjoys statistics, English composition, and history. All of his classes are taken online via the Brightspace app.

Davis’ mother, Kelly Davis, said that she is overjoyed with her son’s accomplishments both academically, and as a person.

“Any mother would say that their child is smart, but I definitely feel Addion has a gift,” she said. “He is a curious and natural learner. He does not struggle with academics but I also think he loves learning. It excites him.”

Due to his advanced abilities, she said Addion was able to go from third grade to fifth grade.

“He did assimilate to the fifth grade, although he did struggle initially,” she said. “He immediately buckled down and started making great academic progress.”

She also commended Alley for her help throughout her son’s time in the program.

“[Alley] guided him, supported him, and assured his success,” Kelly Davis said. “She is an amazing human and we were so lucky to work with her.”

Alley said Davis and his mother were both involved and engaged with the program, and easy to work with.

“He was very motivated and driven,” Alley said. “He communicated with me, and students don’t always do that. He always responded to my emails, and would ask me questions when needed.”

Looking ahead, Davis hopes to eventually work on the West Coast, and was drawn to the region because of the abundance of opportunities in the field. He’s also looking forward to warmer weather.

“I don’t like the snow,” he said. “That’s one of the main reasons, and just all of the opportunities out there.”

Kelly Davis said her son has exceptional time management skills, and can easily prioritize important tasks while always making room for free time. 

“It is not every day that a 16-year-old obtains their college degree before they graduate high school,” she said. “His future is bright and he deserves everything he has accomplished.”

Attempts to reach the Van Buren Secondary School principal for comment were unsuccessful.