LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - About 600 students will be graduating from Western Technical College on Saturday, but for one area student, it's just the first of two graduations this spring.
Austin Klum will be graduating from Western this weekend with an associate's degree in IT software and development.
While he's not busy working on that degree, he's working on something else: finishing high school.
By all accounts, Klum looks like your typical college student.
"The first semester was very intimidating,” Klum said.
For the last several semesters, Klum has been completing his degree at Western Technical College, all while finishing up high school at Westby.
"I just go throughout the semester, and don't say anything until they're like, ‘How old are you?’ And I'm like, ‘I'm 18 and in high school,’ and they're all surprised!"
While surviving high school is tough enough, Klum said taking classes with college students was a bit strange.
"I thought everyone was older, and everyone knew what they were doing, so I grew a beard so they couldn't tell,” Klum said.
Klum was able to complete his degree using a combination of Course and Youth Options through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
"They allow students to get a head start, take college credit, get a head start on their future while in high school, and a lot of times it helps to apply credit towards their graduation requirements as well,” Deb Hether, Western’s director of recruitment and K-12 relations, said.
Introduced four years ago, Course Options allows any public school student to take two college classes each semester paid by the high school at a discount.
"That program also allows students to take summer courses,” Hether said.
Depending on the high school, Youth Options also allows Juniors and Seniors in high school to take classes at a college or University paid by their high school.
In total, Klum had roughly two-thirds of his degree paid for through the two programs.
"I didn't have to take any loans or use up my savings,” Klum said.
Klum will soon receive two diplomas, but the one from Western, he said, means a little bit more.
"It was a lot of work because it was a lot to juggle being in high school and in college,” Klum said. “I'm pretty proud of the college diploma."
Between high school and college, Klum would work roughly 12 hours a day.
He has a full-time job set up over the summer, but plans to go to UW-L next year for the computer science program, while working part-time.
He said he may even go for the master’s program.
Officials said its best to check with a school counselor to learn more about what programs a student qualifies for.
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