Among the more than 420 graduates of Central Texas College (CTC) in a black cap and gown CTCOHSreceiving their associate degree or certificate of completion during the school’s commencement ceremony last Friday, one lone graduate donned royal blue and had not yet started college. Katherine Ortiz-Quinones wore blue representing the CTC Online High School and was the first person recognized during the service as she received her high school diploma. She and her family made the trip from Italy to commemorate the accomplishment – one which Ortiz-Quinones did not think was possible years ago.

Suffering from social anxiety, Ortiz-Quinones dreaded going to school and the stress would often leave her ill or in tears. “School made my head and stomach hurt,” said Ortiz-Quinones. “My classmates made me nervous. I felt like I was not good enough in their eyes. For this reason, I had a very hard time making friends which made my school experience even more difficult.”

Homeschooling was always a dream to Ortiz-Quinones. During the first two years of high school, her father began researching options since she no longer wanted to attend traditional school. “Many of the homeschooling options did not seem very reliable,” said Ortiz-Quinones. “I knew I wanted to be part of an academy that would award me with a high school diploma, not a GED. After weeks of searching for the school that would best fit my needs, my dad found out about Central Texas College’s Online High School. Even though three of my family members had attended CTC, we had no clue they offered an online program that would allow me to finish high school under my own terms.”

CTC’s Online High School offers two self-paced options leading to a diploma. The basic diploma, or Foundation path, includes 22 credits. Ortiz-Quinones enrolled in the 26-credit Endorsement path which includes the 22 credits of the Foundation path plus an additional four credits in a specific area of concentration. “Katherine came to us in June 2016 with 10.5 credits in hand,” said Jennifer Carr, principal of the CTC Online High School. “Within a year, she was able to complete 31 courses and earn the remaining 15.5 credits to achieve a high school diploma.”  

After a site visit and meeting several staff members, Ortiz-Quinones knew she found the right fit.  “I loved the program since the day I started,” she said. “The coursework was engaging and the staff was always willing to answer any questions. I was able to form a bond with many of the staff which is something I had not been confident enough to do at any other school.”

Ortiz-Quinones was also grateful for the program’s flexibility which allowed her to take coursework wherever she traveled. As a military dependent, this enabled her to continue without starting over as the family’s travels took them to Florida, California, Louisiana and Puerto Rico. “The flexible schedule was truly amazing during our move to Italy,” said Ortiz-Quinones. “Any military child knows the stress that comes with switching schools due to a reassignment. Fortunately, I was able to take CTC Online High School with me.”

After the positive high school experience, Ortiz-Quinones has opted to further her education with CTC. “I enjoyed my experience with the online high school so much, I decided to stay with the CTC family and obtain an associate degree in nursing,” she said. “After that, I aspire to obtain a nursing bachelor’s degree in Austin or San Antonio. My dream is to be a pediatric nurse at a health care center that treats military families.” Ortiz-Quinones has already registered for summer classes at CTC and is in the process of moving into the CTC student dormitory.