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Johnson High teen graduating early — with associate degree. And her desire to contribute to community shapes her plans.
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Rachel Korynoski, a student at Johnson High School, has been accepted into the University of North Georgia's nursing school for the spring semester. She has been a full-time dual enrollment student since the summer after her sophomore year of high school and will graduate a semester early from high school — and with an associate degree. - photo by Austin Steele

Rachel Korynoski has accomplished things some Hall County educators can’t recall ever seeing before.

The Johnson High School student will graduate in December, but she’ll not just receive a diploma — she’ll have her associate degree in hand, too.

And at 18, Korynoski will join the nursing program at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in the spring 2019 semester.

The number of students in Hall County schools in a dual-enrollment path reached 496 in 2018 from 68 exactly 10 years ago. That’s 1,952 credits earned by this year compared with just 102 by 2008.

But even among stars, Korynoski stands out.

Carey Corbett Crawford, a counselor and graduation coach at Johnson High, said it’s remarkable Korynoski has completed enough credits for an associate degree before her original high school graduation date next year.

“I’ve never had a student go directly from high school to nursing school,” Crawford said. “She did it all. I just coordinated and asked maybe some hard questions to make sure it was the right decision for her. But clearly it is.”

Korynoski said she chose nursing because of her “drive to help people. I told my parents I want something where I can interact with people and be able to help them personally, emotionally, physically and all that.”

Korynoski has been a full-time dual enrollment student since the summer after her sophomore year.

“My parents encouraged me a lot because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do career-wise,” she said.

UNG’s nursing program is extremely competitive.

The school accepts 40 students at the Dahlonega campus and 60 at the Gainesville campus each fall and spring semester. That’s an average acceptance rate of 28 percent based on more than a thousand applications meeting program qualifications, according to university officials.

For Korynoski, nursing combined many of her passions, which now pursues through volunteering in the community with the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia and the Good News at Noon homeless mission.

Korynoski also serves in several clubs at Johnson High, such as the Interact Club, which is Rotary International’s service club for youth ages 12 to 18.

She also leads service projects as part of the National Honor Society.

“I think it’s just a part of who I am,” she said. “I want to be able to contribute to the community.”

At this point, with her credits earned, clubs are the only things that keep Korynoski coming to Johnson High at all.

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Rachel Korynoski, left, is still involved in numerous clubs at Johnson High School, though she's finished most of her credits. With her during their Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, service club meeting are, from left, Aniyah Norman, Riley Catledge and Suheyla Kipcakl. - photo by Austin Steele

She was already involved, “so I had to stick with that,” Korynoski said. “A lot of my friends are in those clubs.”

Crawford said the school tries to instill the belief in each student that they, as a single individual, have the power to make a positive difference in the world.

“And Rachel does that,” she added. “She’s really remained committed to this school.”  

Korynoski confesses she’ll miss the atmosphere and culture at Johnson High, but it’s time to move on.

“It’s been kind of hard leaving my friends,” she said.

“I said, ‘Are you positive that you want to tell high school goodbye?’” Crawford said.

“I hate to say it, but yes, I’m at a point where I want to start the nursing (program),” Korynoski said.

“There’s no more dual-enrollment courses for Rachel to take,” Crawford said, laughing.

Korynoski is one of the first in her family to attend college. Neither of her parents were able, though they would have liked to, she said.

Her older cousin is also pursuing a nursing degree.

“I’m really proud of her,” Korynoski said.

A nursing degree presents Korynoski with many career options, and while she’s moving swiftly toward her next degree, there are many paths she still wants to explore.

For example, she said, she might continue in academia and work toward a master’s degree and doctorate, and one day become a medical educator.

Or perhaps she’ll find her niche in a clinical environment.  

Maybe she’ll travel and take her knowledge to far-flung parts of the world.

“I’d also like to get associated with international disaster relief,” Korynoski said.

Until then, Korynoski will have to deal with the pressures of nursing school.

There is a “general fear of the unknown,” she said. “I just don’t know how hard the nursing program is compared to what I’ve already done.”

But then Korynoski remembers all the difficult, long hours of study she’s put in over the last few years and her confidence remains.

“I’ve done a lot of hard stuff,” she said.

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