Stephanie Hill was 15 when she completed high school through a home study program.
That fall, she enrolled in five classes at Western Nevada Community College at the Douglas County campus and began working full-time for Bently Nevada in Minden. She earned straight-As her first semester.
At 18, Hill donned her blue cap and gown to march down the aisle to receive her associate's degree Tuesday evening at the Carson City Community Center, where she graduated Phi Theta Kappa.
"I'm really excited," she said before the ceremony. "It's like I've been going a million miles per hour and now all of a sudden, I'm done. I'm ready to be done."
Hill was one of 372 students who received 421 degrees and certificates from Western Nevada Community Colleges in two commencement ceremonies in Fallon and Carson City, including the first graduates of the new Surgical Technology program.
Fallon's graduation ceremony was held Monday evening in the Barkley Theater at the Oats Park Art Center. State Senator Virgil Getto was the keynote speaker.
Lisa Foster, deputy chief of staff in Gov. Kenny Guinn's office, addressed the graduates at the Carson City ceremony.
"An education at WNCC can be the difference between dreaming about your future and finally realizing your future," she said. "An education at WNCC can mean feeling that you are indeed a special person capable of accomplishing great and wonderful things."
Hill credited her years of home-schooling for helping her prepare to meet the demands of completing her courses while maintaining a full-time job.
"I was used to studying at home," she explained. "College is that way. You can't really rely on your teachers."
Named the college's math student of the year, her education was paid for by a General Electric scholarship program through Bently Nevada.
She plans to attend the University of Nevada, Reno in the fall to pursue a degree in computer science with a minor in marketing. She will be the first of the four siblings in her family to attend a four-year university.
"I'm a little nervous because it's bigger. I'll just be someone else in the crowd," she said. "But I'm really excited about UNR."
Contact Teri Vance at email@example.com or at 881-1272.