Before Antonette White had a high school diploma, she already had a college degree.
Antonette, 17, had a weekend to remember when she attended her junior college graduation at Illinois Central College this past Saturday and then her graduation from Dunlap High School a day later.
"It was different, that's for sure,'' Antonette told TODAY. "It was so exciting, but it was weird thinking that after I got home from one I had to start prepping for the other one."
A love for learning has long been a part of her life. Antonette grew up in the Cayman Islands as the daughter of a single father, often sitting in the back of sociology classes taught by dad Anthony White.
"She was 8 years old, and she would sit in the back playing her video games to the point where she was accustomed to it,'' Anthony, who is a professor at ICC, told TODAY.
When the two of them moved to Peoria, Illinois, when Antonette was 13, Anthony had her tested to see if she could place into college classes. She tested at the college level for English and math, and Anthony said he obtained permission from the dean of ICC and her teachers for her to start taking night classes.
Her goal was never to graduate from both schools at the same time. It just worked out that way.
"I can't say it was to finish (junior college) early,'' Antonette said. "There was no plan to it. I just found out that if I could do more, why not? It was just me pushing myself to be the best I could be."
"We took it extremely slow at first,'' Anthony said. "She started off with just one class, an entry-level English class, and it went from there."
Antonette was dually enrolled in high school and ICC, taking night classes as she worked toward an associate's degree.
"I had to find a balance that worked well where I was completing all my classes,'' she said.
She did more than just find a balance, finishing with a 3.9 grade-point average at Dunlap and a 3.6 at ICC.
Antonette also found plenty of time to still be a teenager. She spent her summers visiting family with her father in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Jamaica, while also taking an online course at ICC. She never took more than two classes at ICC in a semester while handling her high school courseload.
"I didn't want it to get too overwhelming,'' she said. "I wanted some 'me' time where I could go to Starbucks or the movies with my friends. I never felt like I was being dragged down by my work."
Her work ethic served as an inspiration for friends and classmates, who weren't surprised to learn she would earn two diplomas in one weekend.
"When my friends found out about it all being on the same weekend, they all thought it was funny,'' she said. "They were all so supportive of it."
In the fall, she will attend Illinois State University, entering as a junior. After initially being interested in a criminal justice major due to her love of shows like "Criminal Minds" and "CSI," she has decided to major in international business after being inspired by a marketing class she took at Dunlap.
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