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Napa teen earns Napa Valley College degree and high school diploma at the same time

Sophia Martin Graduating

Dr, Frost, interim superintendent/president with Vintage High School senior Sophia Elizabeth Martin.

Vintage High School senior Sophia Elizabeth Martin will be wearing an unusual accessory at her graduation ceremony on June 15, something that no one else has earned in the school’s known history.

In addition to her burgundy Vintage High cap and gown, this 18-year-old will also be wearing a white Napa Valley College graduate “stole” around her neck.

Martin has simultaneously earned both her high school diploma and an associate’s degree. She’s about to transfer as a junior to a four-year university, and plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in just two short years.

“I’m a very independent person,” said Martin. “I like always being busy and having so much schoolwork always gave me something to do.”

The idea to take college classes came to Martin after her sophomore year at Vintage High School. In-person learning had been shut down due to the pandemic. All of her classes were held virtually, such as with Zoom.

“I was kind of bored,” she admitted.

So Martin registered for college classes, which were also being held virtually at that point.

“I was just interested in doing something more,” the senior said. She figured, “I’m at home anyways, so why not take a class or two?”

After getting approval from her high school principal, and her mom, Martin joined a Napa Valley Unified School District dual enrollment program where high school students are able to take classes at Napa Valley College for free.

“Ever since then I’ve taken them every semester.”

Her first Napa Valley College class was cultural anthropology, said Martin.

“I’d been really interested in anthropology in general,” she said. She enjoyed the class, and found it easy to fit into her schedule.

In her first semester of junior year, Martin took more Napa Valley College classes: sociology, early childhood development and introduction to Latin American studies. Each semester she registered for more.

Meanwhile, at Vintage High School Martin was taking AP and honors courses in addition other high school requirements. For passing those end-of semester AP tests, she also received college credits.

Yes, she’s regularly appeared on honor rolls at both schools, but Martin said she definitely has interests outside of studying. She played competitive soccer, she works at the Francesca’s retail store in the Bel Aire Plaza and she likes country music and hanging out with her friends.

How did she juggle all of that?

“A lot of to-do lists,” Martin said, and “being pretty organized.”

It also helped that almost all of her Napa Valley College classes have been online, she noted. In fact, “I’ve only been on the Napa Valley College campus once for a class and that was only one-day-a-week; this past semester.”

Martin said she doesn’t feel different than other high school seniors. “I’m a very social person so it’s not like missing out anything. I’m still involved in the senior class. I don’t really feel like an outlier.”

In fact, most of her classmates didn’t know she was also about to graduate from Napa Valley College until a recent school announcement.

“She is a trailblazer,” at Vintage High School, wrote Cindy Johnson, school counselor.

Martin said it was a tie for her toughest class at Vintage High School: AP U.S. history or AP biology. At Napa Valley College, the hardest class was statistics, she said.

The most interesting Vintage High School class she took “was my AP World History class (which) was really fun with the teacher I had, Mr. Schmitz.”

She especially enjoyed the biological anthropology class she took at Napa Valley College. “I really liked the teacher, Chris Mercer.”

This high school and associate-degree earner will soon be leaving Napa Valley, headed to a whole new place: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“I just really liked their anthropology program; they have one of the best,” she said. Martin hopes to earn a degree in Anthropology with an emphasis in forensics and a minor in criminology. But she won’t be leaving the university after two years.

“I want to do their graduate program too,” and possibly earn a Ph.D. after that.

Her dream job would be “something in the realm of forensic anthropology.” She might work for a museum, in law enforcement, or something related.

Martin officially earned her associate degree in Anthropology at Napa Valley College on Thursday night, meaning she became a college graduate before becoming a high school graduate.

Both of her caps (green for Napa Valley College and burgundy for Vintage High School) have been completely bedazzled, thanks to her mom Ivory Ross.

“I’m not the most artistic person, so I definitely let her take on that,” Martin said.

From Jennifer Huffman, Napa Valley Register