Earning a College Degree and High School Diploma at the Same Time Student Success Profile

July 08, 2021

Why wait? That was the thinking of Dagny Parayao, who took part in a dual enrollment program that allowed her to simultaneously earn her associate degree in computer science from Santiago Canyon College while graduating with a high school diploma at El Modena High School in Orange.

“A lot of people really don’t know about the opportunities that are out there, about being able to earn a college degree while you’re in high school, but it’s a great way to save money while getting valuable experience and a first-class education,” Parayao said. “It just makes sense.”

Dual Enrollment offers high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses to earn high school and college credit at the same time. Students can take courses without leaving their high school campus, at the Santiago Canyon College campus, or online. The program allows students to get a head start on exploring careers and interests and strengthen high school transcripts and academic performance, all while getting a tuition-free college education.

Parayao, who graduated as high school class as salutatorian, is transferring to UCLA in the fall, where she will work toward earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Her longer-range plans call for a possible career in software development or artificial intelligence.

“It’s a great field, it’s a growing field, and I really like the creative aspects and the problem-solving aspects that it involves,” Parayao said. “I really enjoy being able to create and I feel like computer science allows me to create.”

Santiago Canyon College Professor Amir Khan, who had Parayao in his computer program course, illustrates the opportunities available at his campus. 

“Dagny was a valuable participant in course discussions and activities,” said Khan. “Assignments were on time and demonstrated quality effort. My course has a group project for the final in which the group can pick to develop a simple childcare system or hospital EMR using the course topics and objectives. Dagny responded greatly amongst peers and lead various efforts within her team project.”

Parayao completed 15 college courses in all, including four as a freshman: Computer Programming 100, Anthropology 101, Psychology 100, and Communication 100. She followed that up with five college classes as a high school sophomore, including Computer Programming 112 and Computer Information Systems 198. She added two more computer science courses as a junior, Computer Programming 120, and Computer Programming 121, before wrapping up with three college courses – Theatre 100, Philosophy 110, and Physics 250 – as a high school senior. 

Classes at Santiago Canyon College – just a 5-minute drive or 15-minute walk from Parayao’s home – were taught at night or online. 

“You get what you put into it. If you put in the time, if you take advantage of the office hours, if you utilize the resources that are there, it can be very rewarding,” said Parayao, whose older brother also benefitted from the dual enrollment option. “All the teachers were helpful. I can’t think of one bad experience.”