One Poland Seminary High School senior is preparing for her high school graduation at the end of the month. But she's already a few steps ahead of the rest.

Bianca Patrone will walk the stage at Youngstown State University, receiving a Bachelor's degree before she even earns her high school diploma. 

17-year-old Bianca Patrone started taking college courses through YSU's College Credit Plus program when she was just 13.

Patrone learned about YSU’s College Credit Plus program after listening in on a senior assembly at her high school.

“I just stood right in the doorway and I listened because it was for the seniors," Patrone said. "I realized when I researched it that you could start in seventh grade. So, I decided to start that summer before my eighth-grade year started."

"I said, 'Are you sure?" said Sarah Eisnaugle Bika, Program Coordinator and Biological Sciences Instructor. "She wanted the challenge and some students really want the challenge." Eisnaugle Bika worked closely with Patrone during her journey as her advisor at YSU. "This is a lot of hard work. It takes a tremendous amount of time and not everybody can do what Bianca accomplished."

Patrone is the first student in the CCP program to earn a Bachelor's degree just weeks before her high school graduation.

"I'm just very proud," Patrone said to 21 News. "I've worked so hard to get here. I knew when I started the fall semester that graduating this spring was a possibility. Once I figured that out, I knew that it would be my end goal to get here. Now that it's here, it's so shocking but exciting."

She's had a strong support system, earning the necessary high school and college credits. It was a challenge completing internships at such a young age because employers were hesitant to hire a teenager.

"She was just very focused so the very first time I met her, she was very driven," Eisnaugle Bika said. "She had a passion for what she wanted to do and she knew exactly what she was going to do and how she was going to get there. She found all the courses needed. If something at YSU didn't fit in with her schedule, she would go take it at Eastern Gateway Community College. She was very flexible with how she accomplishes what she wants. Once she sets her mind to something, it's obvious that she has clear intentions on doing it."

Patrone doesn't believe she sacrificed giving up the traditional high school experience. "I honestly feel like this is a better opportunity for a lot of people my age," Patrone said. “I had so many opportunities through this program. I gained some much-needed experience in networking and it molded me into the person I am today.”

"She gave up a lot of her high school experience because that was important to her," Eisnaugle Bika added. "She mapped out her courses. She would take some courses online in the summer, the fall, and in the spring semesters."

Patrone hopes to be an influence to other teens, letting them know the possibilities offered through the CCP program.

"This program is so overlooked and not a lot of people know or talk about it," Patrone said. "I want to get it out there for not just kids my age but for other people out there who could take advantage of it."

"Because of Bianca's influence, we have younger students interested in our CCP program," Eisnaugle Bika added. "It's a great thing but it's something we often caution against. You never want a student to put themselves over their head. My biggest concern is a student doing this and then not being able to do well and then maybe feeling like college isn't for them or setting themselves up with a low GPA. Those are all things Bianca knew coming in and she took on those risks with confidence."

With a Bachelor's in Business Administration now under her belt, the 17-year-old has real-estate opportunities in London or California she could dive into next. 

Patrone's dream is to open an international real estate company. She formally receives her Bachelor's this Sunday, May 5 at YSU. She will receive her high school diploma from Poland Seminary High School on May 25. 

“I wanted to build a story and create something memorable for other people like me, who just want a different approach to education," Patrone concluded.

Patrone's younger brother is on the same track, also planning to earn a bachelor's through YSU's CCP program before graduating high school.

Click here to learn more about Youngstown State University's College Credit Plus Program.