Spectrum student will earn two-year degree without leaving high school

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Seventeen-year-old Emily Honl will pick up two diplomas this spring.

One will be from Spectrum High School in Elk River, where she is a senior. The other will be from Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, where she is earning an Associate of Arts degree without leaving Spectrum’s campus.

Emily Honl
Emily Honl

Honl, of Big Lake, is Spectrum’s first student to earn an associate degree through the school’s concurrent enrollment program. It’s believed to be a first for charter schools in Minnesota.

Vanessta Spark, executive director of Spectrum, called it a “great accomplishment” for Honl.

Honl participates in Spectrum’s CaSH (College at Spectrum High) program.

Honl said she took college classes as a way to challenge herself and to pick up college credits, which were at no cost. She plans to go to college in Texas, followed by medical school.

She took both college classes and high school classes as a junior and senior. She also works at Caribou Coffee in Big Lake.

“It’s hard because you have to juggle a lot of things,” Honl said. “It’s a lot of work. You really have to put into it what you want to get out of it.”

Spark said they work with three different colleges as part of Spectrum’s concurrent enrollment program — Anoka-Ramsey Community College, St. Cloud State University and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

The program began at Spectrum eight years ago with one course. Today the school offers 17 concurrent enrollment classes and will be adding more.

“The whole CaSH program reflects our mission as a college preparatory school,” Spark said. It also is a chance for students to earn college credit without having to pay for tuition or books.

Spark said she would love to see every Spectrum student graduate with at least one college course completed. Five to seven juniors are currently on track to complete an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school.

All 17 of the college courses offered at Spectrum are taught by Spectrum teachers who have master’s degrees. Mentors from Anoka-Ramsey Community College oversee the classes and visit Spectrum during the semester. Students enrolled in classes through SCSU or the U of M are required to visit the campus once during the semester. A Spectrum economics class, for instance, attended an economics lecture at the U of M.

For Honl, the CaSH program will allow her to earn 60 college credits by the end of this school year. She took most of her classes through Anoka-Ramsey; one was from St. Cloud State University.

Honl has studied a variety of subjects including algebra, English, Spanish and environmental science. She also took five online classes through Anoka-Ramsey including two in music, two in health and one in government.