Dual credit proves fruitful for NTO grads

Auden Salazar, Andrea Liette Ruiz and Danielle Hornbuckle are just three of a number of George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa students who are already half way through college, even though they are graduating today.

Commencement is set for 10 a.m. today at the Odessa College Sports Center, 201 W. University Blvd.

Salazar, 18, earned his core completion from Odessa College; Ruiz, 18, earned an associate of arts degree and certificate in criminal justice; and Hornbuckle, 17, got certificates as a certified nurse assistant and EMT.

All three said they thought being able to earn associate degrees and certificates while still in high school was a great head start.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity that I got and I took it. I only had to pay for two classes because most of my classes at New Tech were free for my dual credit program, so I’m super excited to use my degree and pursue a higher bachelor’s degree with it. It saved me a lot of time,” Ruiz said.

She added that another reason she wanted to get her associate degree was that she’s planning to go into the Air Force and this will give her a higher rank, an E3, or Airman First Class. While in the Air Force, Ruiz said she plans to pursue a communications degree from University of Texas Permian Basin and then go through Grand Canyon University for a degree in education to become a teacher.

“I want to be a teacher because in my life when I was growing up I saw a lot of teachers who impacted my life and they really did teach me. I was with them most of the time here. You’re with your teachers more than you’re with your parents. They’re the ones who teach you about life lessons. They just teach you about everything and I want to be able to impact a kid’s life one day like how my teachers did with me,” Ruiz said.

Salazar was dreaming of earning a degree from NYU or UT Austin to pursue filmmaking, but that didn’t work out, so he applied to UT San Antonio and got in.

Salazar said he knows college is the path he wants to take, but if he goes to UTSA, he plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in communications.

While his dream is still to work in the film industry, his more realistic dream is to work in advertising or another communication-based career, he said.

“I just very much enjoyed the idea of storytelling, or telling any type of story. When I was younger, I would always write stories but then whenever I came to New Tech, I found a passion for filmmaking. I found that I really liked to link stories to visual concepts … so that’s what I wanted to pursue,” Salazar said.

“But for advertising, I just think that’s an extremely interesting part of the business culture and how that works; how marketing goes into it; how you have to use certain colors to get this type of demographic. I find all of that extremely interesting, so that’s why I want to pursue it,” he added.

Hornbuckle plans to become a pediatric nurse. She’s going to start at OC to get her registered nurse degree and then transfer to another university, probably Texas Tech, to get her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

For a long time, Hornbuckle said, she wanted to be a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, but has recently begun moving toward pediatrics.

“I love little kids and I love being able to make them feel better,” Hornbuckle said. “I love seeing the smiles on their faces.”

The three students also agree that New Tech was the right choice for them because of its project-based learning, technology and dual credit options.

“… Whenever I first heard about it, it immediately caught my attention,” Salazar said. “I liked how they were technology based and how they were project based. That’s one of the most interesting parts of New Tech is how we essentially take all of our curriculum and put it into a project and then complete it. That’s how we’ve been learning over the past four years and I really liked it.”

“New Tech has given me a lot of opportunities that I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to get at any other school. I’ve spoken at film festivals for short PSAs (public service announcements) that I’ve made. I’ve been able to volunteer with the United Way. I’ve been on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council. There’s just a lot of things that I’ve felt that I’ve been able to do for my community through coming to New Tech, so I’m really glad that I came here and I got my basics and they helped me out with that,” Salazar added.

Ruiz said NTO has benefitted her greatly by being able to earn college credit while in high school and it also taught her how to communicate with people better, speak clearly and get her point across.

“I just think it was such an amazing school to be at,” Ruiz said.

Hornbuckle said attending New Tech got her headed toward the medical field.

“Going to Permian or OHS, I don’t think I would have had had the opportunity to take the CNA class or the EMT class, but I think definitely coming here I was definitely pushed to go into the medical field and I was given the opportunity to take these classes and this is what I want to do when I get older,” Hornbuckle said.

Principal Amy Hoxie said she thinks the dual credit students are amazing.

“To be able to get a certification or a degree at the same of having to do PBL (project-based learning) here I think is awesome. And I think it really speaks to all the things that they’ve learned here since being students that they’re able to juggle and manage that and be successful,” Hoxie said.

“I’m very happy for them. They act like it’s nothing, but it really is a huge deal and I’m very happy; very proud of them. I hope that they get to not have to spend so much money on college now that they don’t have to go for the four to six years that most of us do,” she added.