Finishing a nursing degree is a huge accomplishment. Imunique Triplett from Milwaukee did just that, and she's not even old enough to vote yet.
At just 17, Imunique has been pinned as a licensed practical nurse.
"It still feels unreal," she said.
She's part of the first wave of students in the M3 program — a partnership between Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
Imunique says the coursework was more than she initially planned to take on.
"I actually went into my high school freshman year thinking, 'I'm not going to be able to maintain a GPA above a 3.0,'" she said.
James Sokolowski, the post-secondary engagement coordinator at MPS, helped guide Imunique through the program.
"We are trying to work together to build pipelines for students so that they really see the connection of what they're doing in high school, how it can connect to college and their future careers," Sokolowski said.
Essentially, teachers want students to see a clear connection between their education and their futures. Imunique says that connection helped motivate her to do better in school.
"I started actually working towards something, working toward a career," she said.
Imunique now has a huge head start in life. She already has a job at an area nursing facility. She has a degree with no student debt, which frees her up for other goals.
"If I want to buy a house, buy a new car — that doesn't have two-wheel drive because it is Wisconsin," she said.
Thousands of high schoolers have gone through dual enrollment programs at MATC. But Erin Cherney, MATC's manager of high school relations, says most students don't finish a two-year secondary degree before they graduate high school.
"When she said she was going to pass — tears. Just straight tears," Cherney said. "Because of the hurdles she jumped through, because of the drive that she had. I know how hard it was, especially during a pandemic."
Now, Imunique's teachers hope she can be an inspiration to others. As far as role models go, it's hard to ask for better.
"I feel like it definitely should be an opportunity for other people to be able to take," Imunique said. "They should really know about the program."
Imunique hopes to one day become a registered nurse. But her teachers are confident she could become a nurse practitioner — the highest level of nursing.
This story was originally published by Katlin Connin on Scripps station TMJ4 in Milwaukee.