Friday, August 14, 2020

High School Graduates Earn CVTC Associate Degrees

Dakota Nyberg and Joseph Cottrell first to finish River Falls H.S. program

River Falls, WI – Dakota Nyberg and Joseph Cottrell have a head start on their fellow 2020 River Falls High School graduates. Not only have they received their high school diplomas, they have also been awarded associate degrees from Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Nyberg and Cottrell are the first graduates of the Business Management Associate Degree Academy CVTC started in 2017 in partnership with the River Falls School District.

“This initiative represents the first in the state of Wisconsin in which a technical college is partnering with a secondary school to provide the opportunity for a college degree upon high school graduation,” CVTC President Bruce Barker said when the program was announced.

Cottrell and Nyberg were excited when they first heard about the opportunity. Being the first to finish the first-of-its-kind program is already shaping their future plans.

“I was a freshman in high school when they talked to us about it, and at the time I was super-excited about business. My father owns a small business and it was my dream then to take it over someday,” said Nyberg, whose father owns The Mac Guys Plus in Plymouth, Minn. “My parents really encouraged me to sign up.”

“My dad heard about it and knew I was very interested in business,” Cottrell said. “He said I should sign up because it would give me a leg up.”

The boys knew it would be a challenge. The program was mainly presented to students in eighth grade who would start as freshmen. For Nyberg and Cottrell, starting as sophomores meant they would have to do extra work to finish in three years – and it would be college-level work.

“We knew that when our senior year came it was going to be a grind,” Cottrell said. “You had to take a lot of classes.”

“My last semester in high school, I had seven or eight online CVTC classes, and that’s when it got challenging,” Nyberg said.

The students found they could handle the coursework, even though it was college-level work.

“I remember being worried about that, but I learned a lot of it was going to be taught by the high school teachers,” Nyberg said. “That eased my tension and made things a lot easier for me. I didn’t find it as challenging as some of the other high school classes because I liked the CVTC classes.”

“I wasn’t apprehensive about the college classes. I was excited,” Cottrell said. “I wanted to be at the top of my game and stand out. But the material wasn’t easy. The hardest part was so much of it was online. I’m more of a hands-on guy.”

“I really liked it when the CVTC teachers came over to teach,” Nyberg said.

Cottrell and Nyberg are making their post-secondary education plans, building on the associates degrees they’ve earned. Nyberg is headed to UW-La Crosse to study marketing and has hopes of transferring to the University of Michigan. Cottrell will enroll either in UW-River Falls or Mankato State in Minnesota to study business management.

Nyberg has moved on from thoughts of taking over his father’s business, though he anticipates running a business someday. He’s considering focusing on filmmaking. “I’ve done a lot of short films and photography,” he said. “When I had more time during the quarantine, I made some short films.”

“I would love to be a CEO, but I don’t know if I would own a business,” Cottrell said. “I have aunts and uncles who are high up in businesses, and they live well. I always admired that.”

There are a couple of ways Nyberg and Cottrell seeing their associate degrees having an immediate impact. Already with plenty of college credits, they will save a lot of money on college tuition and may be in positions to finish college early, depending on what course their studies take. Cottrell is about halfway to a business management degree when he starts his major in college.

Both expect to work part time while going to college.

“Having an associate degree and being so young will make me stand out from other applicants” Cottrell said. “It makes me look like a hard worker.”

“I’d like to find some kind of job in La Crosse,” Nyberg said. “I think having the degree will help me get a better job.”

I can't say enough great things about this program,” said Tim Nyberg, Dakota’s father. “Dakota was able to transfer a lot of those classes right into UW-La Crosse, which gives him a big head start. My other son, Owen, is starting the program this year. I love this program and really hope the River Falls School district will keep it up. I've talked to a lot of parents that would like to take advantage of it.”

Currently, 33 students participate in the program, with 15 expected to graduate in 2021. No new students are entering the program this fall, as the River Falls School District decided not to continue its sponsorship beyond the ending of grant funding.

CVTC currently has a Business Management Associate Degree program running at Eau Claire Memorial and North high schools and another starts this year in Menomonie.

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