Some students get diplomas in December


Unlike most high school students, senior Allison Rice will walk away with her diploma next month, six months ahead of schedule. 

She’s one of 16 students who will graduate early from high school thanks to Maricopa Virtual Academy. 

Rice has high hopes of earning a degree in marine biology “to help save the planet,” she said. 

As the 18-year-old explains it, early graduates take an additional course using quarters, rather than semesters, as a school-year calendar. 

“I was able to just stack everything,” she said. 

Instead of taking just math and science, or English and social studies during a semester, she was taking math, science and English during a quarter. 

In the quarter system, the academic calendar is broken down into three 10-week terms as opposed to the traditional two 15-week semesters. 

Rice said she attended Maricopa Virtual Academy because she works better online than in person with a teacher. 

Asked why a lifelong Maricopa desert dweller many miles away from the sea would want a marine biology degree, Rice said, “I’ve always had a thing for the ocean since I was little.” 

As a young girl, she said she wanted to work with dolphins.  

“But now I’m more into marine conservation and sustainability,” she said. “I believe in protecting our planet and our environment, so I just want to help it.” 

Students wanting to graduate early must submit a written request to the high school principal during the first half of the semester preceding the semester of desired completion, the school district’s website states. 

The principal may accept requests after this date in special circumstances. The request must contain the reason for the request and the written approval of the student’s parents or guardian. All graduation requirements must be met by the early completion date.  

Diplomas normally will be awarded upon completion of studies. Final transcripts will be provided as soon as the high school requirements have been met, according to MUSD. 

Rice applied for an internship in marine and coastal studies at the University of North Carolina. Her ultimate goal is to study marine biology at Hawaii Pacific University on the island of Oahu. 

She has visited Hawaii twice on family trips and found proximity to the ocean inspiring. 

She plans to take all her prerequisite college classes at the Central Arizona College campus in Maricopa so she can focus on her field-of-focus studies in Honolulu. 

While she takes some needling from people “who think it’s weird that I grew up in the desert” and want to study what swims in the sea, Rice said, “Others tell me to follow your heart.”