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Walking the Stage: First MMACHS Associate of Science Cohort Graduates

By: MMACHS Staff

For most high school students, one graduation is enough, but for fourteen seniors at Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, two graduations were most certainly in order.

Back in the Spring of 2021 the pilot program for the Associate of Science in Health Science through Idaho State University was launched at MMACHS. Sophomore students who would be graduating in 2023 were offered the opportunity to sign up, and were informed that the ship was going to be built as they were sailing it. But despite the warning that things would not be easy, many expressed interest. On Monday the 8th May, the ones who made it to the end walked the stage of Idaho Central Arena in downtown Boise to accept their degree.

"It felt so unreal...because everything we were doing was for that moment" said Tracy Truong, who next year plans on attending Boise State University to study Biology with cellular molecular and biomedical emphasis on her way to med school.

Her classmate and best friend, Lily Criswell, who has the same exact post-graduation plans, agreed that the ceremony packed some extra meaning into it, "We've sacrificed so much, like our two summers, and taken a heavier class load than other people to work towards that moment."

The ceremony served as the graduation for all Idaho State University students obtaining degrees from the Meridian Health Science Campus, from Associate all the way up to Doctorate degrees. Before the high school students walked the stage, the President of Idaho State University made special mention of the accomplishment, "We are proud of our partnership with Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School to educate future healthcare professionals. We are pleased here tonight to recognize and congratulate the very first class who are earning their associates degree from a university in health sciences."

Principal Dawnetta Earnest, who was on stage during the ceremony also expressed pride in the partnership between ISU and MMACHS. "It was really cool to see how ISU acknowledged that without MMACHS this associate's degree would not be what it is today, and that it was only through that cooperation and our system that we have set up that allowed both entities to develop this."

"It was fun! I liked the little shout out we got. It was cooler because we were the first class." Said Bezunesh Mina, who will be attending the University of Idaho next fall to study Medical Sciences in hopes of either continuing on to med school or becoming a Physician's Assistant. "And also Mrs. Earnest being on the stage, because I liked the hugs she gave us."

Kaylee McCulloch, whose collegiate goals mirror that of Bezunesh, was also happy to be able to share the moment with her principal. "She looked so happy up there!"

Kaylee reflected on the work that went into the process and how proud she is of her accomplishment. "I'm glad we got to pave the way for future students and to make it easier after the rocky trial. But it was cool to get that moment and have everyone be really proud. Looking back it's not like 'oh I regret putting in the effort I did' or 'I wish I hadn't stayed up late that night', it's like wow, it's done! My family is really proud of me."

"I personally loved it because I got to congratulate and hug each student as they came across" added Mrs. Earnest, "It filled my cup and brought me joy that I know each of those kids personally and I know everything they've put in in their individual lives to get to that point, so for me it was overwhelmingly sentimental."

Ananya Vinnamala, who will be attending the University of Utah in the fall and pursuing a degree in Biochemistry with her sights set on med school, encourages future MMACHS students to really consider following their footsteps. "Just do it! It's literally built into the school, you just have to take on extra class."

Bezunesh agrees, "Yeah, everyone has a sensitive place for us because we were the guinea pigs in the beginning, but now it's easier for you guys!"

The class of 2024 cohort is currently almost double the size of the pilot group, who did have more trials to overcome, but their accomplishment certainly paved the way for all future classes and they will forever be known as the first to successfully climb the ASHS mountain.

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