Albion high schooler earns college degree
‘I was very motivated to challenge myself.’ – Sami Hollenbeck
ALBION – Sami Hollenbeck was a sophomore in high school when she took her first college course. Trigonometry was taught right at Albion High School.
She would take many other college-level classes at the high school – biology, pre-calculus, calculus, statistics, Spanish and Western Civilization.
“They offer so many at Albion,” she said.
As her college credits were adding up, she set a goal in her junior year to graduate with a college degree – before she was done with high school.
On Sunday she graduated with 72 college credits from Genesee Community College, earning an associate’s degree in liberal arts and general studies. On June 22, she will graduate from high school.
“I was very motivated,” she said. “I wanted to challenge myself.”
That doesn’t mean it was easy.
“In my junior year when I had eight classes, it was very overwhelming,” she said. “But once I learned to block out my time it was a breeze. It can be done.”
Graduating from college before completing high school isn’t an unprecedented feat at Albion. Robert June earned a GCC degree in 2014, graduating a month before walking across the stage in the high school gym. Machaon Bonafede also earned his GCC degree about 20 years ago while he was still in high school.
Hollenbeck took many GCC classes in the summer and on-line, as well as at GCC’s Albion campus center. At times she was trying to manage eight classes of coursework, while also working 20 to 30 hours a week at the Albion Burger King.
“When she puts her mind to it, she’s going to do it,” said her mother, Dawn Hollenbeck, who is the assistant manager at the Burger King. Sami’s sister-in-law, Shelby Hollenbeck, is the site’s general manager.
Sami said Burger King has been flexible with her hours when she needed extra time to write a paper or study for an exam. She has worked at Burger King since she was 15, starting as a cashier.
“It has been a great first job,” she said. “It teaches responsibility. I really love this job. I get to talk with customers and make sure people are happy.”
Dawn Hollenbeck is amazed her daughter could keep up with the coursework, while working her job at Burger King and also being so connected with her classmates. Sami was picked as the homecoming queen in the fall.
Hollenbeck also took five internships through the high school internship program. Two of those internship were with special education teachers in the middle school. Those experiences confirmed her career goal to work as a special education teacher. She will transfer this fall to The College at Brockport to work on her teaching degree.
Sami, 18, has 13 siblings, including eight younger brothers and sisters.
“I can’t wait to be a teacher,” she said. “I’ve been around younger children my entire life.”
Her father, Brian Hollenbeck, said Sami is dedicated to her family.
“She is a wonderful role model to her siblings,” he said. “She is very humble and a heart as big as her mind.”
Sami urges other high schoolers to take college-level classes while in high school. They get a step closer to a college degree, and the courses are typically at a deep discount.
“It’s insane the opportunities that are out there,” she said. “I feel like more students would do this if they knew about it.”