LAKELAND, Fla. — Among the people to walk across the stage at Friday’s Polk State College commencement ceremony was the youngest graduate in the school’s history, according to the school’s president.
What You Need To Know
- Abigail Mena, 15, became the youngest Polk State College graduate ever when she received her associate in arts degree Friday
- Abigail says dual enrollment on top of home school coursework helped her earn the credits she needed to graduate
- The teen’s mom says she stressed the importance of education to all of her children, and says Abigail’s discipline helped get her to this point
- Abigail plans to attend UCF to major in psychology
“I’m excited that I’m here. Every struggle that has led to now is definitely worth it,” 15-year-old Abigail Mena said.
Abigail said it was her mom, Claudia Mena, who first suggested she try dual enrollment on top of her coursework in Florida Virtual School.
“The way that I was raised, my mom and dad would’ve told me to go to college anyway, so why put up a fight? I thought I might as well get it over with early,” Abigail said.
“She’s very disciplined, and that’s the key,” said Claudia.
Abigail said taking summer classes and being able to work at her own pace helped her earn the credits she needed to graduate, and so did her support system.
“When my family found out that I was going to be taking high school courses and college courses at the same time, they were really proud of me, so I’m forever thankful for that,” said Abigail.
Abigail said she was still 14 when she completed her coursework in November.
Claudia and Enoc Mena, Abigail’s dad, are both originally from Nicaragua. They said they made sure to stress the importance of education to each of their three kids, including Abigail’s older brothers, Enoc Jr. and David. Claudia calls it their inheritance.
“When you have a degree, when you have education, you’re set for a better future,” said Claudia.
“It’s been a journey, and at this point, it’s very emotional, very exciting,” said Enoc.
It’s exciting for Polk State, too.
“I even just asked her, ‘How did you do it?’“ Polk State College President Angela Falconetti said ahead of graduation. “Fourteen — is it even possible to graduate with an associate in arts degree? She’s our youngest graduate in the history of our college.”
Next up for Abigail: she plans to attend the University of Central Florida beginning next month and major in psychology.