For the second time in five days, Angel Moreno Islas donned his cap and gown and walked across the stage to “Pomp and Circumstance” to accept a diploma. Among the youngest students on stage, he had just graduated from Taft High School earlier that week and was now accepting his Associates of Arts degree from Oregon Coast Community College.
How was he able to achieve both degrees by age eighteen? As he puts it, a lot of time management, self-motivation, and sticking to a plan.
By the end of his freshman year, Moreno Islas realized he wanted to get ahead of the normal high school path and earn college credit. Math was his favorite subject, so he took a college math course and realized he could do it successfully. He met with his school counselor, Robb Ellis, to create a plan of how to earn ninety college credits by graduation.
Although counselors often speak with students about earning college credit, few take advantage of the opportunity to earn as much as possible.
“He really did a lot of his own research and figured things out on his own, which is pretty rare these days,” said Ellis. “He was so self-sufficient for a teenager, it was unbelievable.”
Taft offers dual credit classes, which are classes held at the high school that count toward college credit. Moreno Islas was able to earn 40 college credits through these classes. The other 50, he took through OCCC.
Blake Hagan, a student success coach at the college, met with him each term to help balance his high school credits, dual credits, and early college credits, making sure all the pieces fit. Through its Early College program, OCCC offers waived tuition for juniors and seniors in high school, so Moreno Islas was able to take his courses with minimal book costs and fees.
Hagan saw the teen had unusual study skills and self-motivation for a high school student. “He was never afraid to reach out – and he asked a lot of good questions,” said Hagan.
What made him decide to pursue two degrees at the same time? Moreno Islas looked ahead to what he would have to take in college – general education courses like math and writing that he could easily knock out in high school. He had to learn to balance school, work, and his social life, but was able to navigate only suffering a little loss of sleep.
“I would stay up most nights writing a paper or studying…it was hard, but I just went for it,” he said. “I saved my parents a lot of money, as well as time.”
Now that he’s the proud holder of two degrees, Moreno Islas hopes to do the same again. He will attend the University of Oregon, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting simultaneously.
He credits his family for teaching him to be self-motivated.
“They would tell me, ‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it,’” he said.
As far as other students following in his footsteps, Moreno Islas recommends this path to anyone who is motivated and knows what they want to do.
“The most important thing is to ask around,” he advises. “It’s not going to just come to you. Ask the counselor, find a balance in your schedule, and if you’re up for a challenge, then go for it.”
Anyone interested in exploring the many offerings and college credit courses at Oregon Coast Community College is encouraged to attend the On-the-Spot Admissions Event, to be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. Or, meet with a student success coach any time to discuss the programs and subjects offered and how they fit with each student’s own academic and career aspirations.
Learn more and discover the full range of degree and certificate programs available at Oregon Coast Community College at oregoncoast.edu. Follow OCCC on TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook, or call the College at 541-867-8501.