YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Over the next several weeks, students will be graduating from high school. Very few from of them will be graduating high school and college at the same time — unless they attended Rayen Early College.

Ronald Rosa graduated last Thursday from Youngstown Rayen Early College — part of the Youngstown City Schools. Two days later, Rosa posed with his associate degree from Youngstown State University.

“It was definitely a long and arduous journey, but if you make milestones and goals for yourself — short term goals — and you achieve those goals, it definitely motivates you to just keep pushing forward and going through it,” Rosa said.

Since 2014, Monica Jones has been principal of Rayen Early College, which prides itself on graduating students with both high school and associate college degrees.

“The power of early college is the power of choice. When scholars come through our program and it’s time for them to make a decision on where they’re going to matriculate to — they can go to a 4-year institution, they can go right into a job, they can go into the military — they have the power to make the best educated decision for their life,” Jones said.

Part of Rayen Early College is housed in the 157-year-old Rayen School — the oldest area school building still in use.

Most students finish their high school requirements after sophomore year, then finish up at Youngstown state. This year, 41 of the 73 seniors graduated with degrees from high school and college. Since 2016, between 35 and 66% have graduated with both degrees.

“We’re asking 14- and 15-year-olds to do a lot,” Jones said.

It can be overwhelming, which is why every student has an academic coach.

“We do see, sometimes, trends, because it can be a little fast at first,” Jones said. “But once they utilize all the levels of support and tiers of support that we have, scholars are able to turn it around.”

“The higher expectations — they expect more from you,” Rosa said. “You come to school, they expect you to persevere. You have to persevere and do the work, the hard work.”

Rosa will stay at YSU, with plans to become a traveling nurse or a dentist.

“This is a village approach, here. Not one person here can do this work alone,” Jones said. “Our scholars need all of us to be who we are.”