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Lindsay Hughes, AA-T in communication studies, going to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Lindsay Hughes almost dropped out of high school. Now,Hughes, 24, a proud owner of a newly minted Associate Degree for Transfer diploma, is headed this fall from Allan Hancock College to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo as a speech communications major -- and toward her dream of becoming an educator in charge of a college department.

The California Community Colleges and the California State University system have a new program that simplifies the transfer process for community college students wanting to continue their education at CSU. Community college students who complete an associate degree designated for transfer are guaranteed admission to the CSU system with junior status and will be given priority consideration when applying to a California State University campus and to a particular program that is designated as similar to the student’s community college major. And with many of the CSU campuses only accepting students with these special transfer diplomas this spring due to budget cuts, working toward this goal has never been more important.

Hughes is a testament to the power of hard academic work and the value of the new Associate Degree for Transfer diploma.

“I was messing up in high school and hung out with a bad crowd,” the Grover Beach resident said.“Instead of dropping out I went to continuation high school and graduated at 16. I took a couple of years off between graduating and going to community college.”

But she said she’s glad she did. Hughes made up for lost time by graduating this past spring with four degrees: her Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) degree in communication studies, and associate degrees in liberal arts, speech communications and transfer studies.

“I had all these units and knew I was close to either graduating or being able to transfer,” Hughes said. “But once I was told by my counselor that I could get an (Associate Degree for Transfer diploma) that would help get me into Cal Poly it was a no-brainer.”

Getting into community college was confusing to her at first, Hughes said. Once enrolled at Allan Hancock College, finding the finish line was equally vexing. But with a little help and a lot of self-determination, Hughes is well on her way to reaching her education goals.

“I knew what I wanted to do but didn’t know how to get there,” said Hughes, who gave a lot of credit to Allan Hancock’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services department for the help. “I guess you can say I went from an underachiever to an overachiever.”