Twenty-one students are making history as the first class of graduates from the Early College Option Program offered through the Ascension Parish school district and River Parishes Community College.

Launched in 2012, the program allowed students to take high school and college classes at the same time, earning a high school diploma and an associate degree at the conclusion of studies.

Students had to be freshmen to enter the program and remain enrolled at their home schools while attending classes at the RPCC campus. The program allowed students to continue participating in traditional high school extracurricular activities while pursuing higher education.

"Congratulations to our trailblazing Early College Option graduating class. Their commitment to this program four years ago and hard work is resulting in dual degrees that will give them a huge start in their college or work pursuits," Superintendent David Alexander said.

Enrollment grew from 30 to 288 in its first four years, according to a news release, and is expected to exceed 350 by this fall.

“We’re proud of our first Early College graduates. What they have done is remarkable,” RPCC Chancellor Dale Doty said. “They haven’t just completed both a high school diploma and college degree at the same time; they’ve paved the way for countless future graduates to follow. They just made history. We look forward to many more Early College graduates."

The graduates were eligible to participate in their individual high school commencement ceremonies, as well as RPCC’s May 16 graduation.

Graduates include:

DONALDSONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL: Ty'Janay Brewer, Andrianna Green and Tamiko Stroud

DUTCHTOWN HIGH SCHOOL: Clay Benedict, Katlyn Brown, Kaileigh Hebert, Angelle Kaltakjian and Blaine Perret

EAST ASCENSION HIGH SCHOOL: Clay Lambright, Hannah Pike, Lexie Vass, Taylor Williams and Monica Zapien

ST. AMANT HIGH SCHOOL: Sarah Achord, Taylor Cann, Connor LeJeune, Caroline Melancon, Jillian Parks, Jessica Rusk, Sabria Simon and Story Thames.

For more about the Early College Option program, visit apsb.org/EarlyCollege.