Northeast student graduates high school and college in same month

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by   6/2/2016 9:25:13 AM -- 

NORFOLK - High school, college, career. While most students reach these milestones one-by-one over the course of many years, Axel Gonzalez has achieved them all at once. Gonzalez, Sioux City, IA, graduated from Northeast Community College on May 14 with an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration. Eight days later, he graduated from Bishop Heelan Catholic High School in Sioux City.

And his career? Thriving. Gonzalez co-owns and operates E&G Landscape and Construction with his business partner Daniel Everist, III.

Gonzalez says his journey began during sophomore year of high school when his mother, Maria Gonzalez, who is a recruiter at the Northeast South Sioux City Extended Campus, encouraged him to enroll in some business courses. Gonzalez had always had a strong interest in entrepreneurship, and he said college classes fed that interest in a way high school classes didn’t.

Business courses at the Northeast South Sioux City Extended Campus led to math courses, and soon, Gonzalez was halfway to an associate degree.

“It was hard at times,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not going to say it was easy.”

A typical day for Gonzalez started around 6:30 a.m. Gonzalez also played football for Heelan, so by 7:20, he was at school lifting weights for football. Classes at Heelan filled up the rest of the day, and as soon as school was over, he went straight to E&G Landscape and Construction to meet up with Everist and work for a couple hours. He’d then attend class at Northeast, and usually by 6:30 or 7 p.m., he was back at work. The day ended around 11 p.m.

Gonzalez says the fast pace of his days was the biggest challenge. “Juggling work, high school, friends, football, just juggling that all together--there were a lot of late nights, I’m not going to lie, but (it was) well worth it.”

He says one thing that motivated him to continue with classes at Northeast was “relevance.” “That’s the thing that I always liked about Northeast, and it’s what got me to come back every semester: relevance.” Gonzalez explained he learned many accounting techniques for his business through Northeast classes, and that college coursework often helped him out in his high school classes, too.

 “Heelan helped me with Northeast, and Northeast helped me with Heelan,” he said. For example, Gonzalez says a math teacher at Heelan once wondered where he’d learned a faster, easier method for solving a problem, and it was from his Intermediate Algebra course at Northeast.

Gonzalez credits both Heelan and Northeast with being supportive and flexible. During his senior year, Heelan allowed him to take Northeast classes in the mornings, and his instructors at Northeast were often understanding of his football and work schedules, too.

He says support from both his business partner and his parents were instrumental in his success. His father, Jose Juan Gonzalez, who works a sales manager and businessperson, and his mother pushed him to do his best. “She was not only an adviser, but she was a mother.”

“I am very proud of Axel’s accomplishments and his drive to succeed,” said Maria. “He and I want to especially thank Jim Scholten, Northeast Community College Student Support Specialist, who took the time to mentor Axel and encourage him along.”

And Gonzalez isn’t done yet. This summer, he will continue operating his landscape and construction business, and also enroll in classes at Wayne State College, where he plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in business.

Gonzalez says another thing fueled his determination: “the naysayers.” “I had a lot of people tell me I couldn’t do it. That it was impossible. That I wasn’t smart enough to do it, that I didn’t have the capability or couldn’t handle it all. That’s what lit the spark. That’s what got me going.”




PHOTO CUTLINE - Gonzalez 1


Axel Gonzalez, Sioux City, IA, poses for a photograph with his mother, Maria, at Northeast Community College’s commencement ceremony recently. Gonzalez graduated from Northeast with an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration mere days before graduating high school at Sioux City’s Bishop Heelan Catholic High School. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)

Posted In -- Graduation, Norfolk, Press Releases, South Sioux City, Students and Alumni

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