For one Klamath County student, the pandemic’s forced exodus to the virtual classroom proved to be more boon than barrier.
Before even starting her senior year of high school, Janah Moorer completed the credits needed for an associate’s degree.
The rising senior at Mazama High School may be the first in the Basin to complete the feat, and she’s hoping she can serve as a trailblazer for those who share similar ambitious academic dreams.
“It’s hard when you’re at home. I worked in my room a lot of the time and it’s easy to get down,” Moorer said. “But if you look at the end goal, then you can help yourself keep going and keep pushing.”
Moorer’s end goal has been the same for quite a while. Since kindergarten, she said she’s been fascinated by the brain and has wanted to enter the field of neurology. For years, she has had her sights set on highly competitive Stanford University.
“I know what it takes and I have known what it takes to get into a school like that,” Moorer said. “So I have wanted to work that hard throughout the whole time.”
Moorer has worked that hard — and not just to get into a competitive school. In 2019, the then-14-year-old was named the Klamath Country Volunteer of the Year for her work with Toys for Tots. On top of that she’s been working multiple jobs in recent years — much of which spent helping those underserved and in-need in the community.
Entering the neurology field professionally will entail several years of education beyond high school, hence Moorer’s interest in an associate’s of science from Klamath Community College to help get a jump start on her higher education requirements.
The Klamath County School District has strong partnerships with the local colleges, enabling many students to take dual-credit courses taught by high school teachers or greatly discounted college courses taught by professors, said Jeff Bullock, the school improvement and secondary programs director for the district.
Moorer took those college options “to a different level,” Bullock said.
Many students use the district’s options to knock off general education courses before heading off to college, while others finish an associate’s at the same time as high school. But Moorer used what was available from KCC and the district to get her to a degree faster than anyone else in memory.
“Very, very rare,” Bullock said of Moorer’s degree. “I mean, rare nationally, certainly rare in Oregon, and to my knowledge, and I’ve been around quite a while, Janah will be the first student to complete a full associate’s degree prior to high school graduation.”
When Moorer presented her plan during her sophomore year, Mazama school officials didn’t initially fully back the idea and wanted her to transfer to Falcon Heights Alternative School, Moorer said.
But Moorer didn’t want to make that big of change, she said, and was able to work out a plan with Bullock.
With the help of Oscar Herrera, KCC’s director of retention and student success, Moorer was able to come up with an academic plan that worked around her high school schedule.
When they first met, Herrera said Moorer shared her dreams of becoming a brain surgeon and he said he could tell how eager she was to meet her goal. Herrera said he told Moorer that “this is going to be challenging, and there’s gonna be a lot of sacrifices that you have to make doing this.”
Moorer’s initial plan was to finish the degree over two years, but because of scheduling changes related to the pandemic, Moorer’s daily high school load lessened and she was able to take more credits at KCC.
“It was a really transitional stage for me as a student, because the rest of the pieces kind of fell away and I was able to really, really focus on school,” Moorer said.
Bullock said he wanted to thank Mazama teachers, staff and administrators who worked hard through the pandemic to find a way to coordinate Moorer’s schedule so that she was still able to meet her high school attendance requirements.
Learning from a distance was still challenging, she said. Facing tougher classes and tougher professors, Moorer said there was certainly days when felt down and needed extra motivation from family. She eventually moved from doing her schoolwork in her room to an office she and mom use for coordinating Toys for Tots.
Moorer would put her head down and plow through as much work as she could, trying to stay at least one day ahead in each of her college-level courses. Classes flew by and by the time 2021 came around, Moorer realized that she was essentially finished.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” said JoAnn Moorer-Roberts, Janah’s mom. “I watched from the inside and I saw how hard she was working. I’m proud and the sky’s the limit.”
Moorer said was very disappointed when she found out from KCC that she wouldn’t be able to walk in commencement or receive her degree until next year, when she graduates high school.
According to Bill Jennings, KCC’s interim vice president of student affairs, the college’s standard practice for graduating high school students is to award the associate’s degree in tandem with the student earning their high school diploma.
Still, Moorer is hoping more students can follow the path she forged.
“Don’t be afraid to try to reach your fullest potential as a student, don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand out,” Moorer said.
Bullock said those looking to do the same should plan early and work closely with their high school counselors. Graduating high school and earning an associate’s at the same time remains “a very high hurdle” for most students. But many can take advantage of dual-credit and discounted college courses offered to students across the Basin.
Moorer will spend her senior year at Mazama, wrapping up her last few high school courses and chipping away at her bachelor’s degree by taking more college courses at Oregon Tech.
“Look at your end goals and remember why you started in the first place,” Moorer said.