17-year-old finishes nursing degree before she graduates high school

Imunique Triplett just earned her nursing degree—and she’s not even old enough to vote yet.

The 17-year-old was among the 84 Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) nursing students who earned their practical nursing diplomas on December 14.

Imunique graduated from the Licensed Practical Nursing Program six months before earning her diploma from Rufus King National High School, where she is a senior.

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The teen also makes history as the first Milwaukee Public Schools (MPC) student to complete the new M³ (pronounced M-cubed) nursing program while still in high school.

M³ allows MPS students to enroll in MATC and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee classes to earn credits that count toward their graduation from both high school and college. They could choose from different pathways, including nursing, general education, and teaching.

Imunique Triplett in her nursing uniform
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“The pandemic was a time of self-discovery for me,” Imunique said. “I’ve always considered myself a compassionate person but I’ve never really known where I can apply that.”

She applied for the M³ program her sophomore year before the COVID-19 pandemic. Imunique’s first hands-on experience with patients was in a nursing home in the spring of 2020, where she worked once a week from 7 am to 1 pm in the understaffed home.

Imunique was responsible for helping patients eat and move around, answering call lights, and keeping them company as loved ones couldn’t visit them for their safety.

“It was heartbreaking to see how some of the patients got left off to the sides,” she recalled.

nursing students
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Initially, Imunique thought she wouldn’t like nursing because of the “blood and body fluids,” but she quickly realized she had a knack for it.

“If I had let myself continue to tell myself I couldn’t do something, I wouldn’t have known and missed out on a huge opportunity,” she said.

The teen says the staff at Albert Story School were instrumental to her success in the program. As a young child at a different school, she described herself as a “challenging kid” who was always picked on. She felt like the staff didn’t listen to her, causing her to act out.

But when she transferred to Story in fourth grade, she felt heard, which made all the difference. At her new school, she channeled her energy into activities like forensics and practicing mindfulness.

Imunique Triplett during her graduation from the Milwaukee Area Technical College's Licensed Practical Nursing Program
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The Licensed Practical Nursing Program is free for students, as MPS covers the bill with discounted rates.

Most of the MPS students who took the nursing track with Imunique before the pandemic stopped for various reasons. Some graduated high school, some struggled with virtual components during the pandemic, while others simply realized nursing wasn’t for them.

Looking ahead, Imunique said she’s interested in earning a higher degree in nursing. So far, she has applied to 20 four-year colleges and has heard back from 11. She’s looking at New York University, but she might also return to MATC. Going to medical school is also an option.

At the graduation ceremony, she was chosen by her peers—who are all older than her—to be the nurse pinning speaker.

Imunique Triplett sharing a graduation selfie with another female student
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“I never thought I would be a person other people would look up to,” Imunique said. “It’s a great, great feeling. It’s wonderful that people feel that way about me. To think some of the adults look up to me is mind-blowing.”

According to MATC’s director of high school articulation, Jonathan Feld, the experience can still be worthwhile even when a student doesn’t complete a program.

“It’s giving students the opportunity to try out a career before graduation in an environment with lower stakes,” he said.

MPS students can learn more about M³ program on the district website.

Imunique is off to a great start! Check out the video below to learn more about this story.

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