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Advanced learning: Howard powers through WKU-O, OHS courses

James Howard graduated from Owensboro High School in May.

Last month, the 19-year-old started his junior year of college at Western Kentucky University-Owensboro.

He is WKU-O's first student to earn a high school diploma and associate's degree at the same time.

During part of the time he was enrolled in high school and college, Howard worked 25 to 30 hours a week as a server and cook at Cracker Barrel.

His overall grade-point average in high school was 4.2. At Owensboro Community & Technical College, he earned a 3.72.

During his first semester of college, Howard enrolled in seven classes — six at college and one in high school.

"I overdid it my first semester at OCTC," he said. "I was overwhelmed."

Even so, he finished the semester with one A and five B's.

The next semester, he enrolled in five college courses and one high school class. From that point on, he made straight A's at OCTC.

"He was always very focused and dedicated to his schoolwork," said Julie Combs, Howard's mom. "... Everything just came. He really never sat and studied for hours."

Howard was determined to finish his first two years of college by the time he graduated from high school. Because of his dedication and the dual-credit program, he didn't pay a cent for his first two years of college.

He always wanted to teach. It's in his DNA.

By the time Combs was a second-grader, she wanted to teach. Further back, the family has grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides who taught.

Combs taught more than 20 years. Now, she works with youth at River Valley Behavioral Health.

Howard recommends the dual-credit program, which allows students to earn college credits while they attend high school.

"It helped me grow up," he said. "You don't have teachers and counselors looking over your shoulder, telling you what to do."

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 Last Modified 5/2/17