Students all over New Mexico are preparing for high school graduation, but one student is leaving high school with more than just a diploma.

Michael Sands is first in his class and in the 99th percentile nationally for the ACT and SAT.

“I think Michael is just passionate about learning,” said Liz Sands, Michael’s mother.

That passion for learning is leading Michael toward quite the accomplishment.

“The principal at the school called him the ultimate student,” said Liz. “As time went on, we found out he was getting more and more degrees and we’re just really proud of him.”

This May, he will graduate from APS’s College and Career High School with six associate degrees in liberal arts, integrative studies, math, chemistry, physics and biology.

The dual-credit school on CNM’s campus allows students to earn a two-year degree along with their high school diploma.

“I started off with a biology degree and talked to an academic coach who said, ‘Hey, take five or six more classes and get a chemistry degree,'” said Michael. “So I said, ‘Ok, let’s try it. Why not?’ And they said, ‘You can take a Spanish class and get a liberal arts degree.'”

Michael says he hasn’t always had a passion for school.

“For elementary school, I was honestly kind of bored and I never put any effort and I always got F’s on everything,” said Michael. “For middle school, I was like, ‘Let’s try and see what happens,’ and so I got A’s on everything.”

Liz says he couldn’t be any more different now, with aspirations to be a neurosurgeon.

“He’s been watching videos on Youtube for years on medicine, so I think it’s going to help him,” said Liz. “I think it’s going to make him very well-rounded.”

“The plan to become a neurosurgeon is the four years of college and the four years of med school, and seven years of residency and possibly a few years of fellowship,” said Michael. “That’s a long path but with CCHS I was able to cut a few years off it.”

With a world of opportunities ahead, Michael has advice for fellow students.

“It’s a lot easier to learn when you like what you’re doing and it’s a lot easier to like school when you enjoy what you’re learning,” said Michael.

This fall, Michael will attend UNM where he’s received the Presidential Scholarship. With his associate degrees, Michael will be able to graduate from UNM with his bachelor’s in just two years.