MN woman becomes nurse at age 18: Here's how she did it

It's graduation season across Minnesota, and among those earning diplomas is a Carver County teenager who will soon hold a bachelor's degree at only 18 years old.

Elliana Spaman couldn’t even drive when she started attending college, and now, as most of her peers are graduating from high school, she is wrapping up college and preparing for a career in nursing.

Spaman took advantage of the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) and was able to start taking college courses during high school. She says she is now entering the workforce without any student debt.

"It was fully paid for by the state. Books and tuition. Everything," said her mother, Noelle Spaman.

A recent analysis by the College in High School Alliance looked at disparities in access to the program, and the fact that few high school students take advantage of it. Spaman said she wishes more teens knew about the option.

"I did get a really cool opportunity to get ahead," said Elliana Spaman. "I feel pretty prepared – pretty confident."

The teenager describes that during clinicals in nursing school her mother would have to sign off on her rotations, as students are technically supposed to be 18 years old to work in the hospital.

She also says she kept her age a secret until she got to know her classmates better, and they were shocked when they found out.

"For about a year, none of them knew. They actually thought I was older than them," she recalls. "They finally found out because I couldn’t drive and I needed my mom for rides."

To be eligible for the PSEO program in Minnesota, high school seniors must be in the upper half of their class, and high school juniors must be in the upper third.