MELBOURNE — Generally, a student graduates from high school before graduating from college. One Melbourne student worked on both graduations at once, ultimately receiving his associate degree six days before his high school diploma.
Daniel Rittle graduated with an Associate of Arts in general education from Ozarka College on May 10, then graduated as valedictorian from Melbourne High School on May 16.
“The long-term goal was great when it was satisfied,” Daniel said. “It was tough when we were going through the middle of it. Success is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. There was a lot of hard work, and it ends up paying off in the end.”
Daniel was able to accomplish both degrees through a partnership between the schools. He took both concurrent and dual classes — concurrent classes are those that count toward both high school and college graduation requirements, and dual classes count for high school credit but are not required for high school graduation.
In his last semester, Daniel took three classes at high school and 14 hours of college classes through Ozarka. Additionally, throughout his high school career, Daniel took five Advanced Placement classes.
While his academics took a lot of time, Daniel said he still participated in several extracurricular activities. He is the founder of Melbourne High School’s Origami Club, was part of the Beta Club, played on the Quiz Bowl Team and led a tutoring program for athletes who were struggling with academics. At Ozarka, he was in Phi Theta Kappa, with which he participated in several service projects.
Daniel said his success was partly a result of the time-management system he developed.
“It was a lot of lists and a lot of time spent studying, reading, keeping up with all my schoolwork,” he said. “I really relied a lot on lists to make sure that I got everything accomplished.”
Every Sunday, Daniel went through the upcoming week and listed his classes, what work was to be done in each class and how much time he thought each task would take.
“One week was really tough because we had prom that week, and I had what equated to 22 hours of homework,” he said. “I had to really learn time management, and that was one of the biggest things that I learned that was not really part of any classwork.”
Next year, Daniel will attend Washington University in St. Louis, where he plans to major in biomedical engineering. His long-term goals include becoming a research professor in biomedical engineering at a university.
Daniel said he has been interested in math and science, but his love of origami also played into his ambitions.
“It tends to be very small and very intricate,” he said. “It always follows a pattern, but that pattern can be very complex. Origami seems to be the perfect mixture between math, science and art.”
That combination of math, science and art lends itself to engineering, and when Daniel took biology, he discovered how much he enjoyed that form of science.
“The human body is an amazing creation,” he said. “It’s super intricate, super complex. It’s just a really intriguing subject to me.”
Getting more specific, Daniel said he is interested in the nano aspect of biomedical engineering. One example at Washington University is research concerning cancer treatments that utilize minuscule gold cages with radioactive material in them to target tumors. When the gold cage reaches the tumor, a doctor will shine an ultraviolet light on the cage to make it release the radioactive material, killing the cancerous tissue.
Dennis Rittle, Daniel’s father and provost and executive vice president of learning at Ozarka, said as a parent, he had to balance between guiding Daniel and letting him grow on his own.
“We had to let him do his own self-discovery, but we had to continue to, at times, really encourage him and remind him lovingly not to forget what he needed to be doing,” Dennis said. “As we watched him grow in his time management, it helped us as parents be able to pull back more and more from that reminder piece as he learned that skill.”
Ozarka College has partnerships with neighboring high schools so students can take college classes while still in high school. Options include traditional face-to-face classes, online classes and hybrids between the two.
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.