Duncanville Collegiate Academy Junior Earns Associate’s Degree

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Klaeb Berry in graduation gown
Kaleb Berry has earned an associate's degree, but hasn't graduated from Duncanville Collegiate Academy yet. Photo courtesy of Duncanville ISD

Kaleb Berry Earns Associates Degree Before Graduating High School

Sometimes it’s OK to put the proverbial cart before the horse.

Case in point, Duncanville High School senior-to-be Kaleb Berry, is also community college graduate Kaleb Berry.

That’s right, Berry received his associate degree from Mountain View College during the virtual graduation June 13. This was even before reaching his senior year at Duncanville High School. He is a member of the first class of Duncanville Collegiate Academy.

Not only is he one of the hardest-working students at DHS, he’s also one of the most humble.

“”All of my classmates (in the Collegiate Academy) are on track to receive their associate degree by the time they graduate high school. I just happened to have enough credits to finish the program a year early,” Berry said.

Of course, that doesn’t happen unless a student works hard to excel and get ahead. In fact, he could have finished high school this year, but he chose to return next school year for a few classes so he can run cross country, participate in some school events, and have a traditional prom and graduation – he hopes, as those were denied high school students this year because of COVID-19.

His degree from Mountain View is an Associate of Science.

“I’ve always done well in math and science. I completed all of my college math requirements during my freshman year, including college algebra and pre-calculus,” he said. “I took AP calculus during sophomore year. Physics and chemistry were my favorite classes.

“I have not decided exactly what I want to do as a career. I plan to spend time during my senior year exploring options in STEM.”

Open to career options

His parents have careers in IT and engineering, but Berry said he doesn’t consider himself following in their footsteps.

“I plan to take my time to discover my passion and find something that I truly enjoy,” he said.

Ironically, Berry didn’t attend the DISD until his freshman year, and that was because he wanted to be a part of the first Collegiate Academy. He previously attended a private school and a magnet school in another district.

“I am very proud of Kaleb, and I am grateful that Duncanville ISD provided this opportunity,” said his mother, Lakisha Berry. “I realize he is still very young, and we don’t really know what the future holds for him. I’m hopeful that he will find his way and go on to have a meaningful impact on this world.

“Kaleb has two older brothers. He looks up to both of them – each for different reasons. I’m sure he inspires them as well.”

Berry said his accomplishment was extremely challenging, made even more so by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown.

An Athlete and A Scholar

“I wasn’t sure I would be able to manage everything. Thankfully, my parents stepped in to help me focus before things got completely out of hand,” he said. “I was able to finish my college courses on time, and I completed AP testing at home.”

Through it all, Berry said he doesn’t see himself differently from any other high school student.

“I have a great support system that helped me take advantage of the opportunities that were presented to me. Things are tough right now, and I respect everyone’s journey,” he said.

But he is not like a lot of other students – or a lot of folks in general. He has participated in track and cross country since he was a freshman, is a volunteer at the Duncanville Public Library and helps with a nonprofit his family founded, the Duncanville Tigers Youth Organizations.

He’s also a member of the National Honor Society, though he didn’t have an induction ceremony because of COVID-19. And he’s been recognized as a Superintendent Scholar in the DISD since his freshman year, along with being invited to participate in College Board’s National Recognition programs for minority students.

Top of the class

He’s ranked in the top 4 percent of his class of 1,000-plus students.

And he’s earned extracurricular accolades at the college level already. He participated in Duke University Talent Identification Summer Studies at Louisiana State University during the summer of his freshman year. He was also a member of PTK Honor Society at Mountain View.

“We are all immensely proud of Kaleb. He is a true trailblazer,” DHS Collegiate Academy Principal Pamela Thomas said. “Even more impressive, Kaleb earned his associate degree as a junior in high school while maintaining a demanding course load coupled with extracurricular activities.”

Berry said he’s not sure what college he will attend after graduating from Duncanville High. He had several visits scheduled during the spring, but they were interrupted by the coronavirus.

“I’m definitely considering Texas schools because I want to be able to transfer most of my credits from my associate degree,” he said. “That will save my family a ton of money. I have not decided what my major will be.”

And, in his typical fashion, he said he does not consider himself an inspiration to other students.

“There are kids in my community doing amazing things, and I get inspiration from many of them,” he said. “I am blessed to have been given opportunities to advance myself, and I hope I don’t disappoint anyone.”

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Rick Mauch is a veteran of more than four decades in the media. He began writing in high school and immediately went into broadcasting for almost a decade after graduating, working his way to morning drive in Birmingham, Alabama. However, realizing how much he missed writing (though he did continue to do some during his time in top-40 radio), Rick returned to what he loved and has been doing it ever since. Rick's career has spanned a plethora of media outlets, including community journalism, sports, entertainment, politics and more. He's worked in print, broadcast and online media. He also spent several years doing public relations for a children's home in East Texas - still writing on the side, of course. When he's not writing, Rick loves to play golf and do Bigfoot research. He's an avid believer. He also made his first hole-in-one in June of 2020. Rick is married to Junell Mauch. They have five children and two granddaughters