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Early teen ready to begin road to degree, psychiatric career

By Tommy Wells / Ranger College
At age 14, Kailey Estela Patterson is taking aim at her college degree

EARLY – Kailey Estela Patterson is a rarity among teenagers. At the age of 14, she already knows what she wants to do … and, thanks to dual-credit courses, the Early High School freshman knows exactly how she is going to add to the family tradition.

Only five months after graduating from junior high, the daughter of Edna and her stepfather Buck Taylor of Early, is already taking aim at her college degree. When classes begin in January, she will begin taking college-level classes through Ranger College provided by their Dual Credit program.

“I want to start working on my career right now,” Patterson said. “With dual-credit classes, I have the opportunity to start working towards my career goal. Hopefully, by the time I graduate from high school I will also have my Associates of Applied Science degree. That will give me a head start to becoming a psychiatrist.”

The decision to begin college-level classes didn’t surprise her mother, who also attended the Early ISD system.

“I’m extremely proud of her and her decision to start focusing and working towards her future,” Edna said. “When she found out at school that she could start taking classes, she came home and was all excited. She came home and told us she had to take her TSI (Texas Success Initiative) so she could begin taking dual-credit courses through Ranger. That has become her goal.”

Through Ranger College, high school students are eligible to take college-level classes that will apply toward their two-year degree. The college is one of only a handful of institutions nationally that offers Pell Grant funding to high school students as a way to help cover the cost of courses.

Patterson completed her pre-enrollment exam earlier this month, and a couple weeks later scored well on her TSI test. The exam, which determines a student’s education level in writing, mathematics and reading, is one of the main criteria for students enrolling in college-level courses.

“It is a pretty comprehensive test in the three main subjects,” said RC Director of Testing Stan Feaster. “This is an amazing opportunity for her.”

Patterson’s decision to enroll in the dual-credit program makes her the second member of her family to take a shortcut through the educational system. Her older stepbrother, Gage Lee Taylor, started taking courses with Ranger College while he was a junior at Zephyr High School.

Gage graduated from high school and, in a couple of months, also received his Associates of Applied Science degree. From there, he enrolled at Tarleton State University in Stephenville and received his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Services and Development.

By law, 4-year universities and colleges must accept completed degree programs from 2-year institutions, meaning students can transfer degrees they earn at community colleges to larger universities. During the current Fall semester, Ranger College delivered dual-credit courses to 1,158 students in more than 50 high schools.

Gage turned his career at RC and Tarleton into a teaching career. He currently serves as the agriculture teacher at Mullin High School, while pursuing a master’s degree from TSU.

“She looks up to Gage and his success, so she is determined to do the same,” Edna said. “I have no doubt that she will reach and even exceed her goal.”

Patterson won’t be leaving her high school experiences behind while taking college classes. Many of the courses she will be taking will be taught on the Early campus. That fact will enable her to continue to participate in the many activities she is part of – including playing the flute in the Early Longhorn Marching Band and the saxophone in the EHS Jazz Band.

Patterson is an active member of Key Club and, last year, auditioned and was selected as a member of the All-Region Band.

“She has always stayed busy, and has had fun along the way,” Edna said.

Come January, she’ll have fun being a college student, too.

“That’s her goal and she is determined and ready to work toward it.” her mother said.