Graduate Success Story - Daisy McDonagh

A day in the life of a CCP dual enrollment student

Daisy McDonagh is not your typical 18-year-old. This month, she will be graduating with a 4.0 GPA  at the College and a 4.4 GPA at MaST Community Charter School in Northeast Philadelphia with both her high school and associate degrees. Daisy is one of ten students graduating this May from MaST’s dual enrollment program in partnership with Community College of Philadelphia.

Daisy says she learned about the opportunity to graduate high school with an associate degree while in middle school from a MaST student enrolled in the dual enrollment program at the time. Once she entered the ninth grade, she took the placement exam and tested into the college-level English 101 and Math 161 classes. The rest is history.

“I’ve always searched for new ways to challenge myself academically and the dual enrollment program at CCP helped me do just that,” Daisy said. “Throughout the program, we take up to four college classes per semester in addition to our high school classes. While at times challenging, it’s very fulfilling and a great accomplishment.”

She says the key to her success is working collaboratively with her peers in the program to foster a strong support system. They often review assignments together and hold each other accountable to do the assigned readings for each class.

“Some of our professors don’t know that we are high school students and we like to keep it that way,” said Daisy. “We want to be treated equally and as adults so that our accomplishments matter.”

While she already committed to pursuing her associate of arts in Health Care Studies, it was not until she took a college-level anatomy and physiology class that she fell in love with the field. In 2020, Daisy was also one of eight students out of 35 applicants at the College selected to travel to Cambodia for the study abroad program -- that is, until the pandemic forced the program to a halt.

“As a Health Care Studies major, I’m not able to take as many history classes as I would like,” said Daisy. “I was very interested in expanding my knowledge of the Cambodian genocide as well as the impact it had on family strucutres. The prison camps and medical experiments not only split up families, but destroyed them. With nearly half of the population at the time being under 15, this left many Cambodian children orphaned.”

Daisy plans to expand her knowledge of issues at the intersection of health care and human rights while pursuing her bachelor’s degree. She has received a full scholarship to attend Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska in the fall, where she will major in International Rescue and Relief with an emphasis on Pre-Physician Assistant Studies.

The program at Union College is not only an accelerated physician assistant program, but also the only known college-level program of its kind in the United States. The degree combines rescue and survival skills, humanitarian relief, emergency medical care, public health, disaster management and multicultural service training.

“The International Rescue and Relief program at Union College is a perfect fit because it will allow me to get hands-on experience in the field in addition to what I’ll be learning in the classroom,” said Daisy. “By this time next year I’ll be an EMT and have received training on wilderness survival and disaster preparation. I’ll even be able to work with FEMA and do clinicals overseas in countries like Malawi, Africa.”

Daisy’s dream is to become a physician assistant with a focus on reproductive health. She ultimately wants to travel the world and help people by bringing a more holistic understanding and compassionate approach to reproductive health.

“I would love to start my career as a physician assistant in South Africa,” Daisy said. “South Africa has some of the highest rates of sexual assaults, STDs and fetal alcohol poisoning syndrome. I want to be able to learn as much as I can and help as many people as possible.”

When she isn’t acing her classes, Daisy finds time to participate in clubs at her school. She is the vice president of her school’s National Honor Society, the student representative for MaST’s Board of Trustees where she speaks on behalf of the student body, a Gold Award Girl Scout, a member of the politics club and the gay straight alliance, co-president of the MaST Asian American Student Team, and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at the College.

When asked if she would recommend the dual enrollment program to her peers, she says absolutely.

“You have to learn how to properly manage your time and make the necessary sacrifices to make it through the program,” Daisy said. “But if you enjoy learning and like being independent, then the program is for you.”