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High School Senior Graduates with Associate Degree from Illinois Central College

Senior Tori Larrabee celebrated two milestones this May as she graduated with both her associate degree from Illinois Central College and her high school diploma from Morton Community High School.

Although gaining some college credits is common for many high school students, the class load and course work Tori undertook to earn both degrees simultaneously is far from common.

Larrabee’s double achievement was made possible by taking advantage of the Strong Start program. This Early College program is an opportunity in which students combine courses at their high school with college courses on the ICC campus for part of the school day. Students are typically also enrolled in dual-credit classes at the same time at their respective high schools. The Strong Start program is offered by several area high schools including Morton, Dunlap, East Peoria, Quest Charter Academy, Peoria High, Richwoods, Manual, and Washington.

Tori began taking dual-credit classes her junior year of high school, while also enrolling in summer classes at ICC. By the time summer ended and her senior year was about to begin, she had earned 23 college credit hours. “At that point, I realized it would be ridiculous for me to stop there,” said Tori. “I might as well continue through my senior year earning credits, complete my degree, and finish strong.”

The spring and final semester for Tori at ICC consisted of taking 17 credit hours on top of her high school class load, but she was determined to make it to the finish line. Tori’s sister also attends ICC and has some of the same classes. “Having my sister by my side has been a huge help for me,” she said. “We’re both going into the same field, which is amazing. She really motivates me, and it’s nice having that extra push.”

Tori is thankful for her instructors and the opportunities ICC has provided. “It’s cool to see how much instructors care about their students and how far out of their way they go to help. I didn’t expect the level at which ICC truly cares for students and their success,” said Tori. “I’ve come to love ICC, and I can’t believe I won’t be back next year. I’m thankful for this amazing opportunity every day.”

Next year, she plans to attend Illinois State University to continue working toward her dream of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. Tori certainly received a strong start in achieving her goals at ICC.

For more stories like Larrabee’s, please visit icc.edu/studentstory.

For more about the Strong Start program, visit icc.edu/earlycollege.