Balancing work, college classes, hobbies, and a social life can be hard – especially when you’re still in high school. But Jonathan Knakal makes it seem easy.

A senior at Mount Mansfield Union High School, Jonathan stays busy with many extracurricular activities, many of which involve music and theater. A member of men’s and select chorus groups, co-lead in a men’s a capella group, and a part of the theater crew, Jonathan’s plate is full of afterschool activities every day of the week. In what free time he has, he’s also a part-time employee at the local Best Buy, where he pursues his passion for computer science. “I just like what you can create with computers, what you can do with computers, and basically the limitless capabilities,” says Jonathan.

As a part of his pursuit into the field of computer science, Jonathan also just completed Early College at CCV-Winooski. He began his Early College career after taking the one computer science class offered at his high school. Jonathan had decided, “I’m going to start college at CCV. Mostly because, for one, I can get college and high school credit at the same time, which is just fantastic on its own. But then also being able to take the classes I wanted to take: computer science classes.”

When he heard about the Early College program at CCV from a friend that had completed the program, Jonathan thought “this is what feels like the next logical step for me.” Early College offered Jonathan the opportunity to get a jump on his college degree by completing his senior year of high school while also earning college credits; he completed four courses at CCV in the fall and five courses this spring, totaling 25 transferable college credits. These credits were all completed for free, saving the cost of nearly a year of tuition.

For Jonathan, Early College was a great opportunity. Academically, he felt his high school classes weren’t pushing him enough. At CCV, he says, “it was definitely more of a challenge than high school.” He also praised his instructors for their knowledge in their subject areas, saying they’re “phenomenal.” Diversity also played a role in his positive academic experience. “People had all different perspectives from different backgrounds. It was interesting to have the class discussions.”

Early College also offered a new level of independence for Jonathan. “It took a little getting used to,” he said of the class schedule differences between high school and college. “It’s the idea that you’re on your own now.” There was also a change in his social life, since all of his friends were still on a traditional high school schedule. But once he settled into the new routine, Jonathan discovered many benefits to his new schedule. He was able to work during weekdays, and he found opportunities to socialize through extracurriculars. One of the biggest benefits of Early College is that students can still participate in all of their high school activities. Jonathan said the flexible class schedule allowed him to see his friends at school during their lunch and study halls.

Jonathan’s passion for computers started when he was young, with the game of Minecraft. To be able to play the game seamlessly with enough storage and high-resolution graphics, Jonathan says, he researched what computers would work best and helped his parents pick one out. From there his interest grew as he learned about servers, hardware, and software. Now, years later, Jonathan has built four computers from scratch, describing the process as “expensive and fragile adult Legos.”

Early College at CCV helped Jonathan prepare for his next step of attending the University of Vermont starting this fall where he will major in computer science and possibly minor in music. “At CCV, it’s a step ahead. You’re taking more personal charge of what you’re doing. And I think that’s a really valuable skill learned there which then set me up for UVM.” CCV helped him gain independence and see what a college workload is like. Early College at CCV and transferring to UVM are helping Jonathan pursue his interests by putting him a step closer to a bachelor’s degree in computer science, which will help him to start a career in the field after graduation.

Attending UVM has always been part of Jonathan’s plan. He likes that it’s close to home, allows him to keep his job, offers the computer science degree program that he’s interested in, and will accept the credits he earned at CCV. Early College gave Jonathan the opportunity to pursue his interests and put him on the fast track to his goal of earning a bachelor’s degree. “If you have your sights set on what you want to do, especially in terms of college, Early College is a great way to get there.”

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