This story brought to you for free by:

He’s 14 and already in college: Pierson has West Volusia’s youngest dual-enrolled student

Proud group — At T. DeWitt Taylor Middle-High School in Pierson are, from left, Counseling Director Justin Lipomi, teacher Becky Blondell, ninth-grader Jonathan Mancillas and his mother, Maria Quinonez and Principal Jeff Miller. Jonathan Mancillas of Pierson, 14, is already taking college courses, thanks to being dual-enrolled at both Taylor Middle-High School and Daytona State College. Now in ninth grade, Mancillas began his college career at age 13. 

Proud group — At T. DeWitt Taylor Middle-High School in Pierson are, from left, Counseling Director Justin Lipomi, teacher Becky Blondell, ninth-grader Jonathan Mancillas and his mother, Maria Quinonez and Principal Jeff Miller. Jonathan Mancillas of Pierson, 14, is already taking college courses, thanks to being dual-enrolled at both Taylor Middle-High School and Daytona State College. Now in ninth grade, Mancillas began his college career at age 13. 

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN 

Eighth-grader Jonathan Mancillas was just 13 when he enrolled in college; now he’s on track to earn a two-year degree at the same time he gets his high-school diploma.

Jonathan, now in ninth grade, attends T. DeWitt Taylor Middle-High School in Pierson. He is the grandson of Mexican immigrants who worked in the fern fields of Northwest Volusia, and the son of Juan Mancillas and Maria Quinonez.

The family’s home in Pierson is almost 20 miles from Daytona State College, but Jonathan can take his college courses at his high school. Last year, the Daytona State College course “Managing Your Success” was offered as a dual-enrollment course at Taylor. 

At age 13, Jonathan was the youngest student among the high-school seniors also enrolled in this class. 

“I didn’t feel intimidated at all. These students became my friends; they thought that it was cool that I could be so young and take a college course,” Jonathan said. 

Although Jonathan spends two hours a day after school on homework, he feels pretty comfortable with the college-level assignments. He said he isn’t struggling to keep up with the work, although sometimes he procrastinates. 

While this determined student is considering his next college-level course, he is not taking it easy. He is taking Algebra 2 and honors courses in biology, chemistry, English and advanced Spanish. He said he loves his heavy course load, and has a grade-point average of 3.85. 

“My algebra teacher, Mr. Sheridan, is wonderful, as he makes the math processes memorable by showing multiple ways to work a problem. Mr. Sheridan’s method really helps me to remember why the numbers work together,” Jonathan said. 

Jonathan also helps his mother and father with work around the house. Maria Quinonez has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a paraprofessional in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program at Pierson Elementary. 

Quinonez earned her degree later in life because, when she was younger, she said, her choice was to miss school or go hungry. She chose to help her mother and father in the fern fields to assure that everybody could eat. 

Later, while married and raising her own family of three children, Quinonez completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida. 

Jonathan’s mother does not tolerate excuses for Jonathan not to do his best in school. 

“I am a product of parents who were documented migrant workers, and have struggled later in life so I could go to college and earn a degree to make sure there is food on the table,” Maria Quinonez said.

Jonathan’s ambition is to make good use of his favorite subjects, math and science, as he pursues a career in medicine. 

“I want to become a doctor so that I will be able to help as many people as I can,” he said. 

Guided by his middle-school counselor, Justin Lipomi, Jonathan enrolled in his first course at Daytona State College in the fall of 2016 and finished it with an A grade. 

He also scored high in the math portion of the statewide Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT). 

“The criteria to remain dual-enrolled requires the student to maintain a high-school grade-point average of 3.0, pass the PERT exam or pass the ACT or SAT exams,” Lipomi said. 

Quinonez asked Taylor Middle-High Principal Jeff Miller to have Jonathan tested for the dual-enrollment program. The district approved and, noting Jonathan’s success, Miller has been looking for other middle-schoolers who could participate in the dual-enrollment program.

“We are the smallest high school in Volusia County, but have the largest number of dual-enrolled students,” Lipomi noted. 

“The advantage we have over other schools in the district is that we are a combined middle-high school. If the schools were not housed on the same campus, it would be a challenge for students to take that initial high-school course to make them eligible for the dual-enrollment program,” Miller said. 

Jonathan’s dual-enrollment teacher, Becky Blondell, previously taught as an adjunct professor at Daytona State College. She encouraged Jonathan to continue dual enrollment. She said she recognizes his detailed organizational skills and effectively focused class participation.

Blondell said these are the skills and qualities required by Daytona State College. 

“Jonathan has a unique way of putting all this into perspective. He has a clear focus on his priorities and the importance of each learning strategy I share with him,” Blondell said. “He recognizes how it all ties into his progress.” 

She also teaches the Managing Your Success and Career Development courses for the dual-enrollment program.

Jonathan and his parents are planning for Jonathan to continue the dual-enrollment program by taking courses online as well as at his high school.

— Schandra Rodriguez-Conti, info@beacononlinenews.com


BY THE NUMBERS

113

Volusia County public-school students who earned Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees during the 2016-17 school year

1,583

Students enrolled in college classes while they are in middle school or high school during the 2016-17 school year

6,609

College courses taken by Volusia County Schools students during the 2016-17 school year

— Volusia County Schools community-information office

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.4 (7 votes)