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The future is what you make of it, and for Nevada Virtual Academy (NVVA) senior Valerie Croswhite, that means taking charge of her education in order to get a head start on her future.

Valerie enrolled in the Jumpstart Program, which gives high school students the opportunity to simultaneously enroll in college courses. Students who successfully complete the program will graduate from NVVA with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

“Having an associate’s degree when I graduate will make me more valuable in the job market,” said Valerie. “I could get a jump-start on my life.”

Valerie might be right about the degree she’s earning from Western Nevada College. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with an associate’s degree earn $124 more in median usual weekly earnings than those with just a high school diploma. They also have a 3.4% unemployment rate, compared to 4.6% for high school diploma holders.

Jumpstart offers students a unique opportunity to earn that advantage, and gain an early start on higher education. It requires students to take a full course load from a local college, taking on new academic challenges.

“I liked the thought of throwing myself into something new, something challenging, to both myself and my school work,” stated Valerie. “I knew it would be tough, I knew I would have to work hard to get in, and once I was in the program, to graduate.”

Enrolling in Jumpstart has given Valerie an opportunity to grow and mature as a student. In addition to the academic course load, Jumpstart students are introduced to valuable skills such as time management and team collaboration. Valerie’s mom, Kathleen, has noticed a difference in her daughter.

“The skills she has learned with NVVA – being a self-starter, time management, and working independently, as well as with peers – have all served her well in the Jumpstart program and in Western Nevada College classes,” she said.

Learning becomes a tool to achieve many endeavors in life. “Online learning has taught Valerie that learning can happen anywhere, and not just in a traditional classroom setting,” said Kathleen.

Valerie now has her eyes on a four-year degree, possibly majoring in earth and environmental science. The Jumpstart program has given her a chance to spend time with like-minded people who have similar goals in life, and according to Kathleen, “It has given her a passion for learning.”

With her eye on the future, there is nothing Valerie cannot accomplish.

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