To say Karla Azcona is driven would be an understatement. The tenacious teen earned high school credits while still in junior high school, then pursued an associate degree in liberal arts and sciences while in high school through Hostos Community College’s Early College Initiative (EIC) program with Azcona’s school, Hostos Lincoln Academy (HLA). “I wanted to be in an academic environment that would prepare me for college,” she said of her decision to attend HLA. “Then I heard about the college program, and I thought it was even better. I was already advanced, and I really wanted to be in a place where I can expand my knowledge and be in an academic environment that promotes growth as a student in general.” 

The Dominican-born, Bronx-raised 18-year-old got what she had hoped for and more. During her time at the College, Azcona most enjoyed taking history courses in which she gained context for political and social issues for which she cares deeply. She also liked that her professors challenged her to think critically and engage in deep discussions with her classmates. However, as rewarding as the experience was, juggling college and high school courses wasn’t without its challenges.  

Azcona began the Early College Initiative in her sophomore year of high school, a time when she was taking challenging advanced courses, and she estimates she studied up to eight hours a day on average. Then her family moved, and she subsequently had to commute more than an hour in either direction for school. Azcona also volunteered with HLA’s Each Mind organization, which is dedicated to ending stigma around mental illness, and in her senior year interned as a New York City Virus Hunter as part of Biobus’ partnership with Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine and the Wild Bird Fund.  

“It was really difficult to get through but I’m happy that I have embraced the journey and I didn’t let myself not do it because it was difficult,” she said of the experience.  

Azcona now holds an impressive 3.7 GPA and credits her EIC classmates with providing her with the understanding support to keep pushing through. “I found a lot of motivation from other people like me on the same boat, who had to do their school online as well and study hard; we kind of helped each other out,” she shared.  
Looking ahead, Azcona plans on going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology. She was accepted into Hunter College but is considering deferring for a year to give herself the time and space to get on her feet and move back to New York City.  

We wish her the best of luck in all her future endeavors.