Getting Ahead by Heading Out


Photo used with permission from Gabby Greenwald and Emma Hlavacek

Greenwald (left) and Hlavacek (right) in their caps and gowns.

 As the first semester recently came to an end, seniors prepare for their last semester of high school. But not SHS seniors Emma Hlavacek and Gabby Greenwald. These two friends planned to graduate early, and at the end of the semester in January, they began their summer vacation.

“I decided to graduate early last summer when I heard we were going to be entirely online. I emailed my counselor to see if it was possible. I also emailed my future college admissions advisor to make sure it was acceptable again,” Hlavacek says. 

While the thought of scrambling to finish high school might seem hard, Hlavacek conquered it easily. 

“The process of graduating early was very simple. You just had to make sure you have all the credits you need and talk to the right people. I talked to my counselor. She was very helpful about it and made it an easy process.”

Having the rest of this semester off seems like it would be filled with lots of late nights and sleeping in, right? That’s not entirely what has been in store for the recent high school graduates. 

“I plan to work full time on my semester off to save up money to go to college,” Hlavacek says.

Hlavacek had the support of those around her to help her prepare for graduation and college. 

“My family was very supportive of my decision, and my best friend also graduated early with me.” Hlavacek says.

Hlavacek will be attending UW Milwaukee next fall, and she has an extra semester to prepare her for her future.

Greenwald also graduated at semester, alongside her close friend. She will be attending UW Eau Claire next fall, where she will be majoring in communication sciences and speech therapy, and minoring in Spanish and health care communications. 

“I decided [to graduate early] sometime in the summer before senior year started. I was feeling really distressed and sad about senior year being the way it was, so I thought graduating early would be a way to open up new opportunities for me,” Greenwald says.

Although the process of early graduation was an easier journey for Hlavacek, it brought up some struggles for Greenwald. 

Greenwald says, “The hardest part about [graduating early] was knowing if I really wanted to go through with it or stay in school for another semester. If schools were in person again, I felt that maybe I would be missing out on that in the end. Another thing that was sort of hard was keeping motivated and keeping my grades strong until the last quarter.” Greenwald continues, “My Mom was actually the one who suggested that I graduate at semester– they were very supportive. The rest of my extended family saw it as an accomplishment and not like I was slacking off and wanting to be done early. Everything is so weird right now with COVID, so my family showed nothing but support in the whole process.”

Greenwald also had the support of staff and friends along the way. 

“I did have to talk with Mr. Burke a lot throughout the process because I had a lot of questions. Mr. Burke was pretty helpful with helping me put all my ducks in a row,” Greenwald says.

Along with Hlavacek, Greenwald plans to stay busy in her semester off of school. 

“I’m working a lot. I teach swim lessons and nanny during the mornings to save a little money before college. My family and I are planning on traveling around the US in our RV, so graduating at semester seemed like the right choice.”

The girls shared a lot of fun memories together throughout their high school years. 

“We do everything together, so it just seemed natural we graduated together too,” Greenwald says.

They both share lots of funny memories and stories from high school. 

art by caeli harman

“I am so thankful for every interaction I had with my classmates during high school. It was a really good four years[…] I’m so excited to see everyone thrive wherever they go in the future,” Greenwald says.

Both students will still attend the graduation ceremony in the spring with their classmates, as a last chance to reminisce on the time they spent with each other.