First-Ever Double-Degree Cohort to Graduate Peoria Public Schools & Illinois Central College 

While most senior students anxiously await their high school graduation, a special group of 15 Peoria Public Schools students will celebrate two milestones in one day. On Saturday, May 15, they will become Peoria Public Schools’ and Illinois Central College’s first-ever graduating cohort to earn both their high school diploma and associate degrees. The cohort of 15 has achieved a median GPA of 3.4, with 12 students earning a 3.0 or higher. 

“At ICC, we are incredibly proud of this pioneering group of young adults who chose to accelerate their education and careers while saving significant time and money,” said ICC President Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey. “Each May, additional cohorts will continue to graduate with both their high school diploma and associate degrees. ICC and Peoria Public Schools continue working hard together to change lives of those in our community.”  

“Creating a fully-supported, tuition-free diploma-degree program on a large scale is something I wanted to implement at Peoria Public Schools for many years, and I’m so thrilled Illinois Central College was brought on board as a partner to bring it to fruition,” said Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Peoria Public Schools superintendent.  

The diploma-degree program, often referred to as D2, first launched between ICC and Peoria Public Schools in the fall of 2019. Church Women United-Illinois joined in the initiative by donating the cost of two years’ worth of textbooks to ICC to help support the students. It offers high-performing Peoria Public School juniors the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate in arts degree at the same time. Students attend classes together as a cohort at the ICC Peoria campus and have full access to the College’s academic support services. Their high school counselors continue supporting the students, who also have the option of participating in their high school extra-curricular activities.  

Graduate Ciara Trimble shared, “The D2 program has helped me focus on my plan and my future. If I had taken regular high school classes, I most likely wouldn’t have a solid college plan right now, nor a jump start on college credits. It allowed me to work to my full potential while managing a flexible schedule. The program is truly worth the work.” 

Now, at the age of 18, Ciara plans to transfer to the University of Missouri at Saint Louis where she will enter as a college junior. There, she plans to major in psychology and minor in business. After completing her education, she wants to open a counseling center. “My entire goal for my education is to help people and animals. I want to provide mental health counseling for those who are in need. I also want to save older animals, who otherwise may be put down, and give them a purpose,” shared Ciara. “I plan to combine the two by rescuing geriatric animals and using them in counseling and therapy.” 

Dr. Desmoulin-Kherat said, “These young students have displayed a tremendous work ethic in completing the rigorous studies required to graduate from this program. Moving forward, I envision hundreds of students enrolled in this program on an annual basis. D2 represents another example of the many opportunities Peoria Public Schools offers students looking to accelerate their academics.” 

For more information regarding the D2 diploma-degree program, please contact the ICC College and Career Readiness office at (309) 690-6863 or Peoria Public Schools Innovation and Grants Officer Dr. Susan Grzanich at [email protected]. Additional information is also available at