Receiving a college degree prior to a high school diploma is rare, but possible. Approximately three years ago, Sabrina Mascareñas completed her Associate …
Receiving a college degree prior to a high school diploma is rare, but possible. Approximately three years ago, Sabrina Mascareñas completed her Associate of Arts degree at UNM-Taos, and the following week, received a diploma from Questa High School. In May 2019, Sierra Ferguson enjoyed the same experience as the first Taos High graduate to complete the process.
Ferguson recently discussed what the process has been like pursuing both educational goals at the same time.
Double the work
"At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I signed up for the Medical Terminology class at University of New Mexico-Taos. Students usually enroll for dual [concurrent high school and college] as juniors or seniors, but I was very focused," revealed Ferguson. From that point on, she proceeded to enroll in classes on both high school and college levels.
Ferguson used the terms "difficult" and "challenging" to describe dual enrollment. "I worked my butt off. I gave up a bit of my social life," she said. "In fact, my friends used to tell me that I had a double life- a high school life and a college life. I think they said this because I couldn't always hang out with them since I had to go home and do homework."
During her junior year, Sierra completed 12 courses, including eight at Taos High and four at UNM-Taos.
The work and sacrifice paid off. On May 10, Ferguson received her associate's degree with honors in pre-science. On Saturday (May 25), she joined students with whom she spent the major part of her school life to accept her high school diploma with honors.
The new graduate acknowledges her strong support system, including her parents. "My mom said that she was proud of me, and she encouraged me. My dad said my goal was hard to do, and even if it didn't work, he'd still be proud because I tried my best and worked my hardest," Ferguson related.
UNM counselor Erica Trujillo and dual-credit liaisons Rick Bustos and Bonavita Quinto provided the much-needed support for Ferguson. "Rick Bustos was most supportive and let me cry if I had to do so," said Ferguson.
In retrospect, 18 year-old Sierra Ferguson feels proud of her achievement, despite the heavy workload. "I find that taking a few classes here and there was most beneficial," she said.
The graduate's future
Ferguson plans to study in the UNM-Taos nursing program, working toward a bachelor's degree. "I only need five classes to apply," Ferguson said. The university usually requires two years of prerequisites. Sooner or later, I know I'll have to transfer because I'll need to acquire experience at a bigger hospital. I envision my transfer to a school in New Mexico or Colorado."
"My main goal at present is to become a nurse practitioner, working with babies and children," said Ferguson.
The future nursing student plans a summer break away from her studies. She resumes her classes during the fall semester.
Grandparents were once a large part of Ferguson's family circle. Paternal grandparents were the late Columbus and the late Molly Ferguson. Her maternal grandmother Sharon Ceengaard also passed away. Her paternal grandfather Gary Ceengaard resides in Ruidoso with his girlfriend, Doris Gifford, whom Sienna calls "Grandma."
Friends and acquaintances of the Ferguson family realize that Sierra's plans and interests don't occur by accident. Her father, Adam Ferguson, works as a nurse at Holy Cross Hospital. Sierra's mother, Mary Ann Ferguson, serves as a paramedic, affiliated with Taos County and Holy Cross Hospital.
Sierra's only sibling, Israel, makes his big sister happy. He attends Taos Middle School as a seventh-grader.
For a second year, Ferguson enjoys her employment at the Angel Fire Bike Park. Prior to this job, she worked at Mante's Chow Cart for two years.
Despite a heavy course load, Ferguson made time for activities of interest to her. She worked on the Taos High yearbook, Business Professionals of America and Super Computing. In addition, the recent graduate entered the Science Fair for three years. The main highlight of this endeavor included a $9,000 prize in 30-year bonds at the National Science Fair in Washington, D.C. She also belonged to the Taos High Honor Society.
Precious spare time means that Ferguson makes the best of her participation in activities. She attends Taos Span and Tennis Club three times a week, especially using the elliptical. Sierra likes to knit, especially tops. When possible, Ferguson cooks, but prefers baking as her favorite kitchen activity. "I make brownies, cupcakes, tortillas, sopaipillas, many things," she said.
"I worked very hard to achieve my goal but I'm thrilled I did it. It's good for people to make a goal, work for it and achieve it," said Ferguson.
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