Associate degree at 18. Bachelor’s degree and rewarding career by 20. Home ownership at 22.
Age may be just a number, but the numbers are good for Alexandra Fulton.
Fulton, 22, is a graduate of 2013 Lorain County Early College High School and Lorain County Community College, and a 2015 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University. She works for the Cleveland-based biotechnology company AgriPlex Genomics, where she extracts and analyzes the DNA of plants and livestock to identify the most desirable traits.
Long before she began her career in biotechnology, Fulton was a 14-year-old student in Harry Kestler’s biology class at LCCC.
“During one of our classes, Dr. Harry Kestler gave us a tour of the microbiology lab and I fell in love with the environment,” Fulton recalled. “I knew science was a career path I wanted to explore so I reached out to Dr. Kestler to see if I could come back to the lab and learn more.”
Kestler agreed and the interest of a few students soon blossomed in the Early Scientist group at LCCC. The program allows students in Early College to complete university-level research in the area of HIV transmission – all on the LCCC campus.
Fulton was among the first group of Early Scientists to present their research at a scientific conference. She and her classmates attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver, Canada. At the conference, Fulton’s research was on display alongside the work of students at four-year universities.
The experiences in the Early Scientist program were not what average high school students were doing and that did not go unrecognized by Fulton.
“As high school students, we were conducting collegiate level research. No high schools offer any experience similar to this program,” she said.
Through Lorain County Early College High School in 2013, Fulton earned her associate degree and high school diploma simultaneous – and for free – on the LCCC campus. She continued her education at Baldwin Wallace University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2015. She was awarded several scholarships to help cover the cost of attending BWU, but one of the largest cost savings was earning her associate degree while still in high school, she said.
“Beginning my education at Early College allowed me to have a head start in both my education and my career,” she said. “I was able to graduate with a bachelor’s degree at age 20 and begin applying my knowledge to the real world.”
Prior to her position at AgriPlex Genomics, Fulton worked at University Hospitals where she worked with clinical oncology trials. She lives in Cleveland Heights, where she recently purchased her first home.
Lorain County Early College High School is available for first generation college students who live in Elyria or open enroll in Elyria City Schools. For more information, visit www.lorainccc.edu/earlycollege.