By all appearances, Philip Mestenhauser was your typical high school senior. The 17-year-old attended South High School in Minneapolis and enjoyed camping, canoeing and road biking in his spare time.
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Mestenhauser, however, was no ordinary student. Since the start of his junior year, he had been enrolled in Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), a program that allows high school students to take college courses and earn high school and college/university credits in the process. Mestenhauser split his days between South High and MCTC. When he graduated from South in the spring of 2012, not only did he have a high school diploma, he had 54 college credits, all earned for free.
Outside “the high school box”
Students must meet strict academic requirements and be mature enough to handle college coursework to participate in PSEO. That sums up Mestenhauser. Not long after starting at South, he realized high school didn’t suit him. “I never fit into the high school box,” he said. “PSEO seemed to work better for me, offering additional academic challenges to my coursework.”
PSEO allowed Mestenhauser to pursue his true passion. “I’ve always liked working with my hands and MCTC has many classes to enhance my skills and interests,” he said. “I love the sense of self-sufficiency and accomplishment you get from creating something.” That’s one reason MCTC appealed to him. He initially took welding courses, earning three certifications in the process. Afterwards, he moved into the college’s Machine Tool Technology program where students learn everything from computer-integrated machining, computer-aided design and manufacturing and programming to complex mathematical calculations and advanced measurement techniques.
As the U.S. manufacturing sector continues to expand, Mestenhauser’s technical skills will be in increased demand. Case in point: before graduating, Mestenhauser already had internship with a starting salary close to $20 per hour. Not bad wages for a 17-year-old.
The internship was only the beginning. Last fall, Mestenhauser enrolled full-time at MCTC to finish his Manufacturing Technology and Welding diplomas. From here, he plans to work for a year and apply to the University of Minnesota’s Mechanical Engineering program. His longer-term aim is to work as an engineer with a team of machinists.
Thanks in part to MCTC, he’s closer to his goal than most people his age. “MCTC has been great for me,” he said. “The classes have been challenging, and I can look back and say I’ve learned a significant amount here. I’m really looking forward to starting up again after this summer and moving forward with my education.”