EATON — Never before in the Eaton Community School District had a middle school student taken college classes at the high school, never before had a junior student attained an associate’s degree before beginning their senior year, and never before had a senior student graduated with not one, but two college degrees to their name. Not until Grace Risner.
When Grace Risner graduated from Eaton High School with the Class of 2022, she did so with an Associate of Arts degree from Sinclair Community College, and a B.S. in Psychology from Franklin University, having earned both degrees before earning her high school diploma.
Risner exercised ambition from a young age. The summer before her eighth grade year, she took the qualifying tests to be part of the CCP (College Credit Plus) Program at Eaton High School, a program which allows students to take college courses in high school to get an edge on their credit hours in college. The first course she took was Composition 1, a class taught at the high school through Sinclair Community College.
Through the Fall of 2017 and the Spring of 2018, Risner completed a total of six credit hours of college level courses, but quickly found she could tackle more. The following semester, she began increasing her workload. Her freshman year in high school she doubled her amount of credit hours, taking on 12 rather than six — and another 12 during her sophomore year.
Grace remarks fondly that her parents, Chris Risner and Stephanie Hurd, always encouraged her to take time and enjoy being a kid, but Grace saw no reason why she could not do both.
Grace was active in both extracurricular activities as well as school organizations. She served as both Field Commander and Band President for the Eaton Marching and Concert Band, and participated in cross country. She was a part of Freshman Focus, Peer Leading, was Homecoming Co-chair (a selected position during her junior and senior year where members work together to plan homecoming,) National Honor Society, president for three years of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions,) Student Council — where she served as Representative her junior year and Student Council President her senior year — theater, and TriHiY.
Though Grace was extremely busy with her school schedule, and had already accumulated 30 credit hours through CCP, she decided to increase her workload yet again. Her junior year, Grace took 15 credit hours during the fall semester of 2020, and 17 credit hours during the spring semester of 2021.
Not only did Grace stand out among her high school peers, but among those in higher education.
“It got my attention, that level of peers noticing her,” said Grace’s father Chris, “We’ve had lots of state champions, lots of athletics, but this is a first, this is big.”
Along the way, Grace realized a shift in her interests. Where she had once directed her efforts toward pursuing a career in law, she found the more she learned about psychology, the more she loved it.
“My goal this whole time was to help people, and I thought I could do that through law,” Grace said. “But the more I learn about psychology, the more I believe that is the best way to help people.”
Grace graduated from Sinclair Community College in her junior year of high school on May 6, 2021, with her Associate of Arts. The summer before her senior year, she transferred to Franklin University and began taking classes. Though she had shown dedication to her education before, she continued to excel at higher and higher levels. In the summer of 2021, Grace completed 10 credit hours, that fall she scratched off another 30 credit hours, and in spring 2022 she finished her final 30 credit hours, earning her B.S. in Psychology, with focuses in Industrial Organizational Psychology and Forensic and Criminal Psychology.
Chris jested, “They had to mail her the degree because she didn’t have her high school diploma yet!”
Adopting a more serious tone, Chris concluded, “Obviously what she did saved a lot of money. More importantly, it saved her an extreme amount of the most precious resource, which is time.”
According to Grace, her incredible achievements would have never been possible without the CCP Program offered by Eaton. She expressed her hope that her accomplishments in the program will encourage other students to follow in her footsteps and devote their time to the CCP Program.
“This article is really good because it exposes the CCP Program more,” Grace reflected. “That is one significant aspect of it, because the program gives students the opportunity to save a lot of money. But the time saved is the best thing.”
Carla Risner, Grace’s aunt and member of the Camden Village Council, said of her niece, “Grace has always had a drive like no other. What she has accomplished at such a young age is extremely impressive. We’re all very proud of her. Grace has paved a path for future students to successfully achieve their Bachelors by doing this accelerated program and proving it can be done with hard work.”
Through it all, Grace credits her success to her friends, family and most importantly, her parents.
She is the first Eaton High School student to ever receive two undergraduate degrees before receiving her high school diploma.
Grace Risner intends to continue her education in psychology, and hopes one day she will be able to open her own practice to help people in the way she feels is best.