Phoenix high school seniors graduate with associate degrees

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - Of 111 graduating seniors from South Mountain AAEC High School, one-third will cross the stage May 24 with an associate's degree in hand.

"Some of our students, they start taking college their freshman year, then sophomore year they're taking more... junior year, senior year, we have students taking four or five college classes and high school classes," said Brian Snooddy, director of AAEC Early College High Schools.

This year, 32 percent of the graduating class has earned one or more associate's degrees.

The school's free curriculum is unlike anywhere else. Students get a head start with quality education in horsemanship, vet and agricultural science and they get to work in an animal hospital.

Most of the students are so grateful to earn college credits early, an opportunity their families may not have been able to afford.

"I've earned my associate's in arts and my associate's in general studies," Cassandra Sanchez said. "I'm going to be able to carry three of my tassels that I got from my college graduation."

Others will cross the stage, breaking family barriers.

"I'm a first-generation college student and I really see the future of the entire world, achieving a higher education," Jesus Peralta said. "They motivated me constantly, non-stop throughout this journey."

And some just as unique as their accomplishment.

"It means a lot because growing up with a disability really is hard because I learned how to adapt and overcome many things," Stephen Hernandez said.