Poland teen earns college degree before her high school diploma

Bianca Patrone

POLAND — Bianca Patrone started taking courses at Youngstown State University when she was in the eighth grade and now, at just 17, she will graduate not only from high school, but also graduated from YSU over the weekend with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

She was the first College Credit Plus student to graduate from YSU with a bachelor’s degree before completing high school. She is a student at Poland Seminary High School, but she took most of her college coursework at YSU and Eastern Gateway Community College.

Patrone learned about YSU’s College Credit Plus program after listening in on a senior assembly at her high school.

“I just stood right in the doorway and I listened because it was for the seniors. I realized when I did research on it that you could actually start in seventh grade, so I decided to start that summer before my eighth grade year,” Patrone said.

From there, she noted the encouragement from her mother and help from Patrick Carbon, CCP academic adviser for Eastern Gateway Community College, helping her to earn the necessary high school credits.

Admittedly, Patrone felt the experience was intimidating at first but continued on, crediting her mentors along the way.

“YSU is an amazing school. There are so many helpful people here, especially the professors,” she said.

On campus, Patrone worked closely with Sarah Eisenaugle Bika, coordinator and biological sciences instructor, and Christina O’Connell, director for Center of Career Management out of the Williamson College of Business Administration, for scheduling courses and helping her through the internship application process.

During her time as a student, Patrone completed two internships, the first as a marketing coordinator for her father’s landscaping business.

“At the time of my first internship, I was only 16 so a lot of employers were hesitant to hire me. I decided to intern for my dad, it was more lenient and he had never had a marketing coordinator before,” she said.

The second internship was for local news station, WKBN, also as a marketing coordinator. “Working for WKBN was really nice, a whole different type of environment than I was used to,” Patrone said, “They told me I was the first intern that have had in over 50 years. They really welcomed me with open arms.”

After graduation, Patrone intends on pursuing a master’s degree at Hult International Business School, attending courses at their London campus and opening an international real estate company. Her target market will be the U.S. and down the European coastline.

“I want to be the best contact person for my family who lives in Italy when it comes to real estate,” Patrone said.

She also credited her family as a key motivator through her academic journey.

“My mom earned her PhD at YSU, she was my true inspiration and continued to encourage me when I wanted to give up,” she said.

Patrone added that her brother is enrolled at YSU and is also on track to earn a bachelor’s through YSU’s CCP program before graduating high school.

Though not a traditional high school experience, Patrone felt she made the right choice taking high school courses as well as college courses simultaneously.

“I had so many opportunities through this program. I gained some much needed experience in networking and it really molded me into the person I am today,” she said. “I really wanted to build a story and create something memorable for other people like me, who just want a different approach to education.”

Patrone graduated Sunday as part of the Williamson College of Business Administration.

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