Dustin Smith — Associate in Arts; Associate in Science; Associate in General Studies; Arizona General Education Curriculum; Academic Certificate in Sustainability
On May 10, Smith will receive three associate degrees from Mesa Community College plus an Arizona General Education Curriculum and an Academic Certificate in Sustainability.
Then, two weeks later, she will receive her high school diploma from the Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center, Inc., (AAEC). The school, in partnership with Maricopa Community Colleges and Yavapai Community College, is a multiple campus, independent college preparatory high school district. Each campus offers a college preparatory curriculum, and enables qualified Arizona resident students to earn college-transferable credits while completing work for their high school diploma.
For Smith, who attended most of her college classes at the MCC Red Mountain campus, it was the perfect academic combination.
“It was very invigorating and nice to have the opportunity to step outside the small social circle you typically experience at high school and it was great to be treated with maturity and feel like an adult,” Smith said. “It helped motivate me to take on more responsibilities and feel confident in my own abilities and the opportunity in front of me.
“It also opened up a lot of resources that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, like working with professors, interviewing them for papers and research. When I competed in the Arizona State Science Fair and a national science fair, a lot of the research was based on things I learned at MCC and conversations I had with professors there. I thought it was a great small community, and it helped me to take my first step into my higher education. It benefited me academically and I feel more prepared to go and live independently.”
Smith will continue her academic pursuits by majoring in Earth Systems and minoring in Film and Media Studies at Stanford University. Smith is excited by the prospect of studying at Stanford.
“In the first moments, I was in disbelief (at being accepted to Stanford),” she said. “But, as the reality sunk in, I was absolutely ecstatic! Stanford has been my dream college for as long as I can remember. My acceptance made me feel powerful, intelligent, and capable. It was surreal, the payoff of every weekend plan I have ever turned down to complete homework and every late-night study session which left me exhausted. I finally feel that I have planted my feet in the first concrete step to achieving my lifelong dreams and beginning the next chapter of my life.”
At Stanford, she also plans to take advantage of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station, an extension of the campus located along Monterey Bay which offers specialized, hands-on marine biology courses.
“I also hope to participate in a semester-long study abroad program in western Australia,” she said. “This program is opportune for me, a prospective coral reef researcher, offering field experience in the Great Barrier Reef!”
After Stanford, she plans to attend graduate school to obtain her master's degree.
“With a graduate degree, I will be eligible for careers in the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” she said. “My ultimate career goal is to work with one of the agencies as an environmental researcher. I am particularly interested in studying the effects of climate change on coral reef ecosystems and developing techniques to mitigate coral bleaching, a natural and detrimental phenomenon I am very passionate about.”
Her advice to other concurrent enrollment students?
“Take advantage of every opportunity at Mesa Community College,” she said. “We are so privileged to be presented with the opportunity of concurrent enrollment. Allow yourself to have a head-start on success; take as many classes as you can handle, get to know your professors, and befriend other students. Enjoy this chaotic, unique high school experience, but push yourself to make the most of your time. The world is in your hands, but it is your duty to truly grasp it.”