Meet Aspire Scholars

Interview with Emeline Whaley, a 2022 Payson High School graduate and Aspire Scholar.

What year in high school did you start taking dual-credit classes?
I began taking dual-credit classes my sophomore year of high school.

How would you describe your experience with the dual-credit program?
My experience with the dual-credit program has truly been remarkable and a life changing opportunity. I got to take a wide variety of college classes, with zero costs out of pocket of my family to begin preparing for my future. My family was not able to pay for my college, so without this dual-credit program I would not have been able to take college credits in high school, and I would not be college bound in the fall after graduation.

What classes have you especially enjoyed and why?
I have really enjoyed taking my college math classes including College Statistics and Precalculus. These classes are usually dreaded by students, but they have enhanced my math capabilities and enriched my mathematical knowledge to prepare me for my future career. I have also enjoyed taking general elective college classes such as intro to psychology, intro to computers, intro to education etc. These classes opened a lot of doors for me to see what my interests were before attending college, so I was able to decide my major and determine my future career while still in high school.

What benefits have you experienced with taking the dual-credit classes?

I have received countless benefits. First and foremost, the financial burden of college was something my family was nervous about but through this program I can humbly and thankfully say my family has not had to pay a penny for any of the 45 college credits I have obtained in high school. I have received the benefit of challenging myself and growing academically through extensive studies and rigorous courses. Lastly, I have received the benefit of so many generous people in the community that are investing in the youth and donating to make my future a reality for me.

Are you the first in your family to pursue a college degree? If not, who else has pursued a degree and how have they influenced your desire to go to college?

Neither of my parents pursued a college degree, and I will be the first in my family to attend a four-year university. My parents were unable to afford college and were also going to be unable to afford to pay for me to go to college. However, I knew I wanted to go to college and have worked very hard to be college bound in the fall. Dual-credit classes made college a reality for me. I got a head start to get almost 40% of my bachelors done through dual-credit classes which I did not have to pay for, and I have received enough merit based and local community scholarships to pay for the remaining amount of my college. For this I am so grateful for the dedication and generosity of the donors of the Aspire Foundation to offer this opportunity for me and make college possible. I would not be able to do it without them.

I understand that you earned a scholarship to NAU.  Congratulations!  Can you tell me a little more about it?

I am so excited to be attending NAU in the fall! I received the Lumberjack Scholarship which is the highest merit based scholarship you can receive from NAU. This scholarship was earned by me meeting all of the credit requirements as well as I have maintained an unweighted 4.0 gpa throughout my four years of high school. This scholarship will cover full tuition for four years at NAU.

At this point, what are your education plans after high school?

My education plans after high school are to attend NAU and pursue my bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Technology with an emphasis in data analytics. If all goes well for my bachelor’s degree and because I have a head start in my classes through my dual-credit courses I may even be able to pursue my master’s degree. After I graduate college, I would like to manage an IT team for a corporation or become a data analyst.

How is the dual-credit program helping you to achieve those career goals?

The dual-credit program is helping me achieve these career goals by getting me a head start on my college classes without getting into any student debt. The dual-credit program is teaching me the importance of hard work and that being persistent through the hard times pays off in the end. I have also learned investment in the future is the best thing I can do for myself right now.

Were you taking dual-credit classes during the pandemic? If so, how did it help you find stability during this trying time?

I was taking dual-credit classes during the pandemic. This was a very trying and challenging time in my life, however these classes helped me find stability and routine in my days. I had very dedicated professors who set up virtual meetings with us and assigned our assignments to us weekly. I set aside certain times each day to do homework and kept my room tidy to have an organized safe place to do my work each day.

What advice would you give other high school students that haven’t taken dual-credit classes that might want to get a head start on their college education?

The advice I would give to other high school students who haven’t taken dual-credit classes that might want to get a head start on their college education is to just do it and enroll in at least one class and give it a try. For me, this was the best decision I made in high school. You will get to take college classes that transfer to most colleges, free of charge. There are many generous donors who are investing in the youth, and this is our chance to show them it is worth it and that we can be successful. Taking college classes in high school helps prepare you for the transition to college and challenges you to grow academically. I would even tell the kids who are unsure if college is in their future, to give it a try taking one class and finding out before you graduate high school and get in student debt at a university, if college is for you or not. Dual-credit classes provide endless opportunities for the students who take them, and from my own experience I can honestly say it was the best decision I have made, and my future is set up for me to be successful because of it.