Central, NICC degrees earned at the same time

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Central graduate Maci Kluesner in cap and gown during her graduation ceremony from Northeast Iowa Community College, where she graduated with a AA degree.

By Willis Patenaude 


In a growing list of accomplishments, recent Central graduate Maci Kluesner added another one, this time being the first Central student to get her Associates of Arts Degree from Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) while in high-school, receiving her diploma from NICC before her high school diploma. 

Originally, this wasn’t the plan, but during her junior year, two things happened to change all that: the PE class Maci had registered for had too many students and former guidance counselor Mrs. Colbie-Nuss suggested she use her PE exemption for that semester and pick up a college class. Initially, Maci wasn’t sold on the idea because she didn’t like the idea of taking a 16-week long class, so they explored the requirements of an associates degree through NICC and settled on the option of taking two eight week college courses, which provided for a heavy workload. 

All of this is possible because Central has a partnership with NICC that allows students to take college courses for free, as long as they don’t take so many classes that they could be considered a full-time college student. Then there was the help, not just from Mrs. Colbie-Nuss, who assisted with the requirement side of things, but also from Principal Aaron Rienhart, who allowed Maci to take classes during her advisory period, which made it possible to fit all of the classes into her schedule. 

“Without these accommodations my degree would not be possible due to my last minute decision making,” Maci said. 

The accommodations also helped because Maci was an active student, participating in cross country, basketball, track, individual and large group speech, fall play, spring musical, student council, NHS, 4-H, and the compost team. She also worked at Schera’s restaurant, the local radio station, and Wood’s Edge Golf Course. The increased schoolwork and the extracurricular workload provided a challenge for Maci, who admitted there were some struggles with time-management.   

“I don’t know if I actually balanced my time effectively. Most nights I was up past midnight trying to cram everything in. I just knew I had to get my work in and follow through on my commitments. I hate going back on my word. My time management was definitely the biggest challenge as well as taking courses of high difficulty that I had no previous knowledge of,” Maci said. 

But as a result of this, Maci learned time-management strategies to improve, such as using a planner and working on focusing on the task at hand. She also sought out teachers and fellow students who had knowledge on the college subject she was taking. It’s a goal-oriented mindset that allowed her to complete a high school diploma, a college degree, and compete in numerous school sports. 

“I’m just a person who likes to be busy I guess. I like knowing I have the ability to get things done,” she said. 

Since graduation, Maci has been working the normal summer jobs, as she gets ready to attend Drake University where she will major in political science and mass communications with the hopes of one day going to law school, a goal she’s had her sights set on since middle school. She will also continue to work on her time-management and procrastination. As for the path to becoming the first Central student to graduate college before walking across the stage to collect her high school diploma, Maci continued to thank Mrs. Colbie-Nuss, the teachers, family and friends who were supportive, helpful, and offered all forms of encouragement. All of them were vital in helping Maci manage the workload, handle the stress, and stay on task. 

When it comes to future students following in her footsteps, Maci offered this advice: “Don’t stop yourself from accomplishing a big goal because you’re afraid you won’t.” 

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