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High School Practical Nursing Graduate Reflects on Dual Enrollment Achievements at STC

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a common question asked of children as early as Kindergarten. Though it isn't meant to have a definitive answer (yet), the question is thought provoking and allows for self-reflection, especially during a child’s formative years. Once students enter high school, their future becomes more of a reality and the question demands closer consideration. Traditional two and four-year colleges are a common next step for many but it's not the only option for all. High school dual enrollment is an opportunity for students to take college level classes for free, alongside earning their high school diploma. Attending the program in high school has several advantages, including being cost-effective (with minimal out of pocket expenses) compared to its adult counterpart. Also, students may go directly from high school into the workforce with a career, having learned valuable life skills, including time management and responsibility early on.

Recent high school graduate Alessandra Aguila is one of many students who have successfully completed the high school dual enrollment program offered at Suncoast Technical College (STC). Alessandra attended Suncoast Polytechnical High School (SPHS) and dual enrolled in STC’s Practical Nursing Program. The only program of its kind out of 67 Florida Counties, introduces students to the structure and function of the human body in the ninth grade so that as they enter tenth grade, they are ready to learn patient care, and experience their first hands-on opportunity in a clinical setting. More intensive education in nursing practice and clinical takes place in the eleventh and twelfth grades. According to High School Practical Nursing Instructor and former Teacher of the Year Denise Walker, “This program requires dedication and perseverance to graduate, but those who complete it are eligible to sit for their nursing boards for Practical Nursing Licensure from the State of Florida.”

Alessandra is scheduled to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) and then enroll in State College of Florida, where she will work toward becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). She is one of the first in her family to attend college, which is something she is extremely proud of.

“I didn’t always know that this is what I would do for a career. I only knew that I wanted to do something that helped people.”

In middle school, she thought about becoming a Kindergarten Teacher. Alessandra also said she wished she was rich so that she could help those in need. Her compassion for others and desire to help began at an early age.

“I can remember putting a band-aid on my dad’s arm when I was little and how happy I felt knowing that I made him feel better.”

She recalled the nickname, “My Little Doctor” that he gave her when she was small and said that growing up, she always wanted to help when anyone was sick or hurt. Alessandra’s future goals include getting her BSN and eventually working in labor and delivery or with pediatric patients with cancer.

“The wonderful thing about high school dual enrollment, especially through SPHS, is that I only have two years at SCF because I was able to complete a full year of credits by dual enrolling. It saved me money and time.”

When asked about the program and its training, she stated that, “Clinicals were the biggest help for me because when you ‘actually’ become the nurse instead just being the student, you gain confidence along with many more skills.” Alessandra hopes that sometime in the futures, future, she can become a travel nurse or war zone nurse. She wants bring aid to where it is most needed so that those seeking it don’t have to look far.

For more information about Dual Enrollment, please visit our PROGRAMS link at or contact a school counselor at 941-924-1365 / Ext. 62283

Article by Laurie Dillon
June 15, 2021