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Senior Spotlight: West High School’s Annabelle Cooper and Jayden Foster Graduate as Dual Alumni

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May 24, 2024 – On May 10, 2024, Annabelle Cooper and Jayden Foster, seniors at West High School, donned their graduation gowns. The two attached their tassels to their caps and prepared to walk across the stage to receive their degrees. 

Degrees. Not diplomas. Because Cooper and Foster will not receive their high school diplomas from West until May 31. The caps and gowns they wore at the May 10 ceremony were not West's traditional buff and brown but a simple black typical of Columbus State Community College, where the two are now alumni. 

For Cooper, it was an opportunity to make her mark on a family that always strives to surpass expectations. 

“I have five siblings; three of them are older than me. They’ve also done college classes [in high school], and they’ve been leading the path for me,” Cooper said. “We have a thing where we try to one-up each other and always be something greater.” 

After walking across the stage at Columbus State, Cooper succeeded in her quest to one-up her siblings. She is the first in her family to obtain a college degree while still attending high school. She credits the opportunity to obtain her Associate of Arts to the dedication of West’s staff, particularly Wynette Simms. 

Simms is the school’s College Credit Plus advisor, and it is thanks to her that Cooper and Foster had the chance to excel in their college classes. The College Credit Plus (CCP) program allows students to take college classes while still in high school. Simms worked tirelessly to grow West’s CCP program from just a few classes to the robust program the school now offers. 

“The College Credit Plus program has progressed so much at West [since my siblings went here,]” Cooper said. “Ms. Simms has made so many improvements in bringing college classes to West.”

Simms wanted students to be able to earn college credit without traveling across town to attend classes at a university. She worked with West’s teachers to get them certified to teach collegiate classes. Cooper, Foster, and their fellow CCP students can now earn college credits from the same people who teach their high school courses.  

Simms said having the students learn from the teachers in a familiar building was crucial in removing barriers to accessing these college classes. 

“Bringing the classes in-house has been a big deal,” Simms said. “West’s teachers understand the students and the challenges they face. We meet them where they are. As long as you provide access and opportunities, we have students that will excel.”

Cooper and Foster have done just that. Along with graduating with an Associate of Arts degree, they have utilized these college classes to explore possible careers.

When he started high school, Foster was interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy. He soon learned that there is a lot of paperwork involved with physical therapy, and he isn’t passionate about paperwork. 

Through his CCP classes, Foster discovered a love of writing, psychology, and music. He began taking classes focusing on music and realized that he wanted to pursue it after graduation. He plans to attend Capital University for Music Technologies, where he can build upon what he’s learned at West and Columbus State. 

Foster said his experience with CCP has shown him that he can succeed in whatever he sets his mind to. Halfway through his high school career, Foster became exhausted from doing both high school and college work. But he didn’t let that deter him from pursuing two degrees.

“The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was burnout. I [wanted] to take a break, but in order to meet the deadlines, I couldn’t. I had to stay composed,” Foster said. “[It showed me that] if you strive for what you want in the future, then you can achieve it.”

Now that Cooper and Foster are both Columbus State graduates, they’re excitedly preparing to walk across the high school graduation stage. Cooper joins her mother as a proud West Cowboy alum. Although she is the first in her family to graduate high school with a college degree, she hopes she is not the only one who will obtain that accolade. Just as her older siblings led the way for her to enroll in CCP classes, she hopes her younger siblings will see the work she and Foster have done and strive to obtain dual degrees when they come to West. 

Congratulations to Annabelle and Jayden on their degrees! Columbus City Schools and West High School are incredibly proud of you both.

Power of One

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