HISD seniors earn degrees before their diplomas through Texas Early College Program

On Thursday, May 11, Houston Community College (HCC) held commencement ceremonies for the class of 2023. Graduating students walked the stage at NRG Arena to flip their tassels and receive their well-earned associate degrees or trade certifications to the cheers of proud friends and family.

There were a few HCC graduates whose educational journey differed from their matriculating peers. These graduates are students at HISD’s Early College High School (ECHS) campuses who were able to earn their degrees and certifications before their high school diplomas.

“It’s a really big achievement and something that I’m really proud of and something I worked very hard for,” said senior Nancy Hernandez, just before accepting her Associate of Arts in Multidisciplinary Studies with highest honors. “It means that I got to save my parents some money as well as myself some time.”

The Early College High Schools are open-enrollment schools that offer students the opportunity to work toward their high school diploma while simultaneously either earning an associate degree, a level 1 certificate, or at least 60 credit hours toward a baccalaureate degree. This education model was designed to elevate students who might not otherwise be able to attend college. The accelerated courses provide students with a personalized college experience, and the program partners with Texas higher learning institutions to help seniors access to four-year institutions post-graduation.

The HCC graduation ceremony included an address from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and a special recognition of the graduating ECHS students by HCC Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado.

Alexander Escoto came away with not only an Associate of Arts degree, but with a sense of pride in himself and the work that he did. “I put more tears into college courses than any other high school course,” Escoto said. “It might seem easy, but you have to put so much work into it, and being a high school student, a college student, and a working student who has a job, it was pretty difficult, so I deserve this.”

For more information on HISD’s Early College High Schools, visit the Early College information page here.