Blackfoot student receives Associate Degree before high school diploma

Wyatt Astel is surrounded by family and friends as he presents his associate’s degree from College of Southern Idaho.

BLACKFOOT — Imagine being a senior in high school, trying to get ready to graduate in a week, and you are the valedictorian for your graduating class. Sounds pretty exciting doesn’t it?

Add in the fact that a week before graduating and receiving your high school diploma, you find out that you are also receiving your associate’s degree from the College of Southern Idaho, even before you graduate from high school.

That is what Wyatt Astel of Blackfoot High School has accomplished this spring.

Back in the seventh grade, Astel was notified that he was eligible to begin taking dual credit courses and that he should look into it. He did, and though he didn’t act on it immediately, it remained in the back of his mind until just prior to his junior year. That summer, with the aid of some “free money” through the state of Idaho, Astel applied for and took 16 credits that were some of the general studies needed to start progressing toward a degree.

“When I first started, it was like, that looks good and that looks fun, there was no real plan in place,” Astel said. “Once I got through the first bunch of classes, it became a lot more serious.”

Astel then enlisted the help of his high school counselor and contacted the College of Southern Idaho and reached the desk of Josh Sakelaris, the dual credit coordinator for the college.

They worked together to get Astel on the right course to be able to graduate with his associate degree this spring.

“There are a lot of specific courses that you need in order to get to where Wyatt finished up this spring,“ Sakelaris said. “Once we all got on the same page of what he wanted to do, we were able to point him in the right direction so that he took the right courses.

The end result is that the state paid around $4,125 of the expenses for him to take the credits he needed for his degree. He only had around $600 in money out of pocket to accomplish all that he did.

Next up for Astel? He is going to attend the University of Idaho and study math and computer science. According to his mother, he would like to work for the National Security Agency someday and this will send him in the right direction.

With his associate’s degree under his belt, he projects that the will only have two to two and a half years to get his Bachelor of Science degree. That will make him around 20 years of age and at least two to three years ahead of his peers as far as education goes and have a big jump start on everyone else his age.

Astel is a third-generation graduate of the College of Southern Idaho, following his grandfather and his father, and will be following his father to the University of Idaho as well. His father majored in agriculture at U of I.

In addition to everything else, Astel was also a participant in athletics at Blackfoot High School, participating in football and wrestling.