College News

High school student takes advantage of early college opportunities to graduate from Barton Community College

Student in graduation cap and gown

May 16, 2023
Story and photo by Maggie Harris

Hailee Bonham-DeBolt first heard about the Barton County Upward Bound (BCUB) program from a friend. That was four years ago. Last week she was able to walk across not only her high school stage as a graduate but also during the commencement ceremony at Barton Community College on Friday.

Bonham-DeBolt decided to apply for the program as a freshman at Hoisington High School (HHS) after hearing a friend talk about how much fun she had while also learning life skills and getting some college credits out of the way. The BCUB staff works throughout the year to teach students skills like running a budget and planning for the future. They also host various fun activities and help them navigate their academic journey. Students can also enroll in the Residential Intensive Summer Experience (RISE).

“During the summers, I got to experience RISE, which helps you get a taste of what classes in college will be like,” she said. “I have met so many incredible people, from friends to teachers. I am so lucky that I could spend my summers with my friends while earning college credit at the same time. It helped me grow and shape the person I am today.”

She said the BCUB experience has helped her grow and shape the person she is today, and BCUB Project Director Kelsey Hall and BCUB Academic Coordinator Rebecca Kratzer were essential to her personal and academic progress.

“In the last four years, we have had some difficult conversations that were very beneficial to my growth,” she said. “BCUB has taught me the importance of breaking outside your comfort zone. I will be forever grateful for what BCUB, especially Kelsey and Rebecca, have given me. Without them, I would not have gotten this degree; thank you for supporting me in everything I do.”

Hall said Bonham-DeBolt is the only BCUB student to graduate high school and earn her associate degree at the same time.

“Hailee is incredibly driven, and I could not be more proud of her,” she said. “She has had huge dreams for as long as I’ve known her, and I’m so excited to see where her future takes her.”

Kratzer said she is also looking forward to seeing Bonham-Debolt’s future unfold.

“She is a very determined young lady,” she said. “Once she decided she would complete high school and earn her associate degree at the same time, nothing and no one could stand in her way.”

Bonham-DeBolt is thankful for Barton's role throughout high school and the advantages it has laid out for her future. In addition to the RISE program, she has taken dual-credit classes at HHS and a few online courses.

“I am so grateful that Barton has helped me get my associate degree while in high school,” she said. “Barton has prepared me for what college will be like at a university, plus it will help me spend less time in college and lower my student debt. I felt like Barton was always offering me support to help with my journey.”

Bonham-Debolt will continue her education at the University of Kansas, where she plans to study ecology, evolution, and organismal biology on the pre-med track. She hopes to attend medical school and fulfill her dream of becoming an OB-GYN surgeon.

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