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Fallos sets the bar high with two diplomas in one week

Isabella Fallos received associates degree from NTC on May 18, will receive high school diploma Friday
Fallos sets the bar high with two diplomas in one week
Isabella Fallos, 18, is the daughter of Amber and Josh Fallos of Rib Lake. She recently completed her associates degree through NTC and on Friday will be receiving her high school diploma from Rib Lake High School. BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS
Fallos sets the bar high with two diplomas in one week
Isabella Fallos, 18, is the daughter of Amber and Josh Fallos of Rib Lake. She recently completed her associates degree through NTC and on Friday will be receiving her high school diploma from Rib Lake High School. BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS

Isabella “Izzy” Fallos is getting ready for her second graduation ceremony within the span of one week.

Fallos will be graduating with her classmates at Rib Lake High School on Friday night. On Saturday, May 18, she received her associates degree in substance abuse disorder counseling from Northcentral Technical College. She is the first student to complete the college degree program through NTC while also a student in high school.

Fallos said it would not have been possible without the support of “a really awesome counselor” at NTC who was able to get her course program set up as well as the support she received from Rib Lake teacher Dan Winkler.

“I want to thank Mr. Winkler for all of his support through my whole journey. He really made a tremendous impact on my life,” Fallos said.

Fallos’ degree is for counseling people with substance use disorders in the community across age groups.

While other young people her age were in class studying algebra or chemistry, Fallos has spent the last few months working completing the hours of hands-on learning she needs to have to earn the degree. She completed her internship in Wausau, that began in January. In April got a job working in Lac Du Flambeau with students in the school for substance use disorders.

“So that’s been really fun,” she said. She explained that she is intrigued by seeing how the substances impact your brain and functioning overall.

In order to complete her program and be able to receive her degree from NTC this spring, Fallos had to make some choices. One of those was to transfer from Rib Lake High School into the Rural Virtual Academy.

Rib Lake School District is a member of the consortium of school districts who partner to run the RVA. Under this, Fallos will receive a Rib Lake diploma and was able to participate in extracurricular activities at Rib Lake.

“RVA gave me a little more freedom to have time to do the classes I needed to do and do my internship,” Fallos said.

“We try to continually think outside the box to continue to provide high levels of education and best meet the needs of our students,” said RVA High School Principal Kathy Alexander. She said that because of RVA’s partnership with the Rib Lake School District, and 70 others around the state, they are able to provide opportunities that go beyond what the student would be able to get in a traditional brick and mortar setting.

The process to graduate high school with both an associates degree and a high school diploma did not happen by chance. She began in her sophomore year of high school with the “Start College Now” program which allows high school students to earn a certain number of college credits at no cost to the students. She also took advantage of dualcredit offerings through NTC such as the advanced math classes taught by Rib Lake teacher Craig Scheithauer. These programs and dual credit opportunities allowed her to complete her degree without going into debt, making it manageable to pay as she went. “It certainly made a huge difference,” she said.

She said she became committed to wanting to earn her associates degree during the spring semester of her junior year of high school.

Fallos praised the advisor she worked with at NTC who was able to get everything set up for her. “She laid out what classes I had to take when. She was really great to work with them and the teachers there are amazing too any questions they’re always available to help and they want to see their students succeed, which I think is amazing,” Fallos said.

Fallos said she knew she could academically handle the mountain of coursework needed to meet her degree and high school requirements, but it required a bit of advocacy to convince others that she would be able to carry the load.

This past fall she had 24 college credits worth of classwork, in addition to being in high school.

“Trying to make that line up in my schedule was a little bit challenging,” Fallos said.

“I love learning and I love understanding how things work, especially my passion is really like neural science and psychology so there’s a lot of that in the substance use disorder world, so having some of those classes kind of drove me to continue to work hard,” Fallos said.

Not only was Fallos able to keep up with her mountain of classwork, but she excelled at it. She is in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and was named to the 2024 All-Wisconsin Academic Team. Only 30 college students in the state received this recognition.

As far as her choice of degree, Fallos said she saw a need for it in the community.

“There is a lot of alcohol and drugs around, especially starting at younger ages,” she said. She said there are a lot of dangerous things out there such as fatal overdose of opioids.

“I wanted to be part of the solution,” Fallos said, noting that she knew she had the passion and drive to pursue it.

She said there is a growing demand for those counseling services in Northern Wisconsin.

“It is a growing field and especially if you are planning on going into the mental health field, it is a really great place to start in my opinion or even just stay as a substance use disorder counselor you can find a job wherever you look” she said. “If you’re passionate about what you do you can go anywhere.” She noted that in tribal communities, in particular, there is a great need. “I think it is a great place to work and the people are amazing to work wit and the community’s worth working for,” she said.

Fallos said she could not have made this happen without the support of her family and educators she has worked with.

Fallos plans to continue her education. She intends to enroll in a university program for neuroscience and either go to medical school or pursue a doctorate and go into research. She said the hands-on work she has been able to do with working as a counselor will be valuable going forward as she looks to continue her studies.

While Fallos has been committed with her studies, she said she still makes time to be a teenager.

“I have a boyfriend, Ethan. He’s amazing and I spend time with him a lot, I like to go out to Culvers with my friends and just catch up or go to the Plaza and hang out,” she said.

“I definitely feel like it is something I am able to balance. I guess it’s a good way to put it,” she said that especially with summer coming up she will have some extra time to take some additional classes for neuroscience, while also working toward becoming an emergency medical technician.