Crockett High School Student Finishes College Degree

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – Through a program available to its high school students, Crockett High School Senior Jospeh Tuggle recently received his Associate’s Degree from Angelina Community College – several weeks before high school graduation. The program, free and open to students in the district, sees Tuggle as the first student to complete the program, allowing him to begin college with two years already finished. 

According to CISD (Crockett Independent School District) Superintendent John Emerich, the district has offered the program for several years now, with many graduating seniors beginning college ahead of the pack, with Tuggle being the first to focus on the program and complete the work for his degree ahead of graduation. 

The program allows high school students to take dual-credit classes, which count towards both high school and college credits, saving them and their parents thousands of dollars in college tuition, room and board. The program is available to high school students at no charge. 

“It’s definitely helped a lot, considering my sister is in college. So, trying to support both me and her going to Texas A&M will definitely be a struggle,” Tuggle acknowledged. “But considering I have 60 credit hours, it’s almost like an equivalent to a $10,000 scholarship in itself.”

Emerich had questioned why the district hadn’t considered such an arrangement five or six years ago, arguing it would be a path students could choose, helping both them and their families. Apart from the rising costs of tuition and living on a campus, students would be able to complete college up to two years early, giving them a head start on entering the job market or furthering their education. 

“The current cost just for the credit hours was $9,280,” Emerich said. “Obviously, that’s not having to live on campus or drive there or any of the other expenses. That was paid for completely by Crockett ISD.”

Emerich pointed out while Tuggle was the only student this year to complete the full program, many students had completed course hours over their high school years, which would cut time from their college stay and save them and their families money. The college courses also count as a higher grade, meaning a high school student’s GPA gets higher the more college courses they take. 

College is not for everyone, Emerich admitted, and this program is not for everyone, since it is a big commitment of time and gray matter. Some students are intimidated by taking college-level courses as a high school student. Tuggle said it wasn’t always easy, but the rewards are huge. 

“It wasn’t extremely difficult but it’s definitely a lot more work than the average high school class. Especially when stacked on top of them,” Tuggle said. 

“I’ve always been a big believer, even if the student doesn’t finish their Associate’s Degree, they can take some courses and be successful with them. To me, that is a powerful thing, because I realize the majority of our kids, if they were to pursue a college degree, will be the first ones in their family to do so,” Emerich said, also the first in his family to pursue a college degree. “It opens that door to them that, ‘Hey, college is a possibility for me.’ where in the past, that would have been something they might not have even considered. So I am still constantly pushing and trying to get more of our kids to take advantage of this. Our staff is trying to do the same.”

Tuggle attended the graduation ceremony at Angelina not only as one of the youngest graduates there, but not even knowing his way around campus. 

“Everyone around me was probably about 20, or older. That was the first time I’d ever even been in the facility because I was taking purely online classes. I’ve never actually been to the campus,” Tuggle said. 

With the possibility of getting ahead on college hours, to getting one of the many technical certificates from forklifts to cosmetology – CISD is trying to offer a wide range of options for students to take advantage of programs during high school, with no additional cost to them. 

The ironic part, as Emerich agreed, is that to take full advantage of these programs, one must start early in their high school career. Most 16-year-olds either have no clear notion of what they want to do after school, or more interesting pursuits such as spending time with friends, may stop them from taking full advantage of the various programs. For those who do, they will surely leap ahead of the pack, either in college or in one of the skilled trades. 

Tuggle, who plans to study biology at Texas A&M, couldn’t help giving his older sister some good natured ribbing over his recent graduation with a two-year college degree. 

“I did mess with her about it, considering she’s yet to apply for her degree. So I have a college degree and she doesn’t,” Tuggle joked. “So, of course I mess with her about it a bit.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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