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Atwater High Student Graduates High School and College At Same The Time

Alfonso Belmonte

When the pandemic hit and the district switched to Distance Learning, Alfonso Belmonte didn’t struggle with the transition like many of his classmates did. Alfonso had been taking college classes all throughout high school, so he was already accustomed to online learning. 

“A lot of the work I had been doing was online, so the switch to Distance Learning didn’t affect me that much,” said Alfonso. “I guess you could say I was ahead of the curve.”

Since his freshman year, Alfonso had been taking college courses concurrently with his high school workload via the Dual Enrollment Program. The program is a partnership with Merced College and allows students to get a jump on their post-secondary education. It took some convincing at first from his mom and a close family friend, but thanks to their encouragement and his hard work, Alfonso will receive both his high school diploma and Associate Degree this spring. 

“I wasn’t sure if I could do it at first,” said Alfonso. “I thought it would be too much work and I wasn’t sure if I was mentally ready for such a commitment. But once I completed one class, I saw that it was possible.” 

Alfonso states that the biggest adjustment came at the beginning when he had to learn a new system and figure out how to find his assignments online. His professors were very approachable and helped him get settled, but he also noticed that the atmosphere in college is much different than high school. 

“In college, it’s completely on you if you want to do well,” said Alfonso. “If you don’t do your work, nobody is going to check up on you. It’s all up to you.” 

Alfonso also says that there’s a lot more independent work compared to high school, which has it’s pros and cons depending on what type of student you are. Being self-motivated and organized, Alfonso had no problem finding the time to complete his assignments. He also found time to practice for and play not one, but two different sports (volleyball and basketball).

In addition to getting a head start, another benefit of the Dual Enrollment Program is the financial aspect. The program is free for MUHSD students. Alfonso also found it beneficial to get a taste of college life before he becomes a full-time student at CSU Stanislaus, where he’ll study to become a teacher. 

Alfonso recommends the Dual Enrollment Program to any student who’s serious about going to college. And for anyone who isn’t sure if they can handle the extra workload, he uses himself as an example. 

“To be able to get my diploma and college degree at the same time feels great and shows me that I am very capable,” said Alfonso. “As long as you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything.”


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