RIVER FALLS Dakota Nyberg and Joseph Cottrell have a head start on their fellow 2020 River Falls High School graduates. Not only have they received their high school diplomas, they were awarded associate degrees from Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Nyberg and Cottrell are the first graduates of the Business Management Associate Degree Academy CVTC started in 2017 in partnership with the River Falls School District.

“I was a freshman in high school when they talked to us about it, and at the time I was super-excited about business. My father owns a small business and it was my dream then to take it over someday,” Nyberg said.

“My dad heard about it and knew I was very interested in business,” Cottrell said. “He said I should sign up because it would give me a leg up.”

The program was mainly presented to students in eighth grade who would start as freshmen. For Nyberg and Cottrell, starting as sophomores meant they would have to do extra work to finish in three years – and it would be college-level work.

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“My last semester in high school, I had seven or eight online CVTC classes, and that’s when it got challenging,” Nyberg said.

Joseph Cottrell said that having an associate degree and being so young will make him "stand out from other applicants” when looking for a job while also attending college. He graduated in 2020 from both River Falls High School and Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Joseph Cottrell said that having an associate degree and being so young will make him "stand out from other applicants” when looking for a job while also attending college. He graduated in 2020 from both River Falls High School and Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Cottrell and Nyberg are making their post-secondary education plans, building on the associates degrees they’ve earned. Nyberg is headed to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to study marketing and has hopes of transferring to the University of Michigan. Cottrell will enroll either in UW-River Falls or Mankato State in Minnesota to study business management.

Nyberg has moved on from thoughts of taking over his father’s business, though he anticipates running a business someday. He’s considering focusing on filmmaking. “I’ve done a lot of short films and photography,” he said. “When I had more time during the quarantine, I made some short films.”

“I would love to be a CEO, but I don’t know if I would own a business,” Cottrell said. “I have aunts and uncles who are high up in businesses, and they live well. I always admired that.”

There are a couple of ways Nyberg and Cottrell are seeing their associate degrees having an immediate impact. Already with plenty of college credits, they will save a lot of money on college tuition and may be in positions to finish college early, depending on what course their studies take. Cottrell is about halfway to a business management degree when he starts his major in college.

Both expect to work part time while taking classes.

“Having an ass

Joseph Cottrell earned his high school diploma and an associate degree. Thanks to Chippewa Valley Technical College's program with River Falls High School, he has about half his business management degree coursework completed before he starts his major this fall. Submitted photo
Joseph Cottrell earned his high school diploma and an associate degree. Thanks to Chippewa Valley Technical College's program with River Falls High School, he has about half his business management degree coursework completed before he starts his major this fall. Submitted photo
ociate degree and being so young will make me stand out from other applicants” Cottrell said. “It makes me look like a hard worker.”

“I can't say enough great things about this program,” said Tim Nyberg, Dakota’s father. “Dakota was able to transfer a lot of those classes right into UW-La Crosse, which gives him a big head start. My other son, Owen, is starting the program this year.”

Currently, 33 students participate, with 15 expected to graduate in 2021. No new students are entering the program this fall, as the River Falls School District decided not to continue its sponsorship beyond the ending of grant funding.

CVTC has a Business Management Associate Degree program running at Eau Claire Memorial and North high schools and another starts this year in Menomonie.