A couple of years after completing their high school graduation requirements, as much as two years ahead of schedule on college graduation and about a month away from their first big cap-and-gown ceremony, seniors at Lenoir County Early College High School can’t help but feel the future is now.
Twenty-five of them emphasized that outlook on Wednesday during Early College’s second College Decision Day, the annual announcement of students’ academic intentions set in the atmosphere of celebration that usually accompanies the signing of an athletic scholarship.
“College Decision Day provides schools and communities with the opportunity to showcase academic excellence with the same enthusiasm and pride as is devoted to sports,” Early College principal Diane Health said in opening the ceremony, held in Briley Auditorium at Lenoir Community College.
“It’s a great day. I’m so happy for all of you and I hope you’ve had a great experience here at Lenoir Community College,” LCC President Dr. Rusty Hunt told the students.
Lenoir County Early College High School gives students the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree from LCC, where the school is housed. Of the 38 graduating seniors in the Class of 2017, all earned their high school diploma and 17 also earned associate degrees and three earned occupational certification.
Carter Whitley of La Grange is among the 17 in his class headed to a four-year university with two years of college already under his belt. He declared for Appalachian State University on College Decision Day.
“It was my first choice,” Whitley said before the ceremony. “I only applied to two colleges – Appalachian and N.C. State. I wanted to move to the mountains.”
In Boone, he plans to pursue degrees in construction management and criminal justice. Doubling up is nothing new for him; he will leave Early College with an associate of arts degree and a degree in career pilot technology. “When I first started here, I wanted to be a pilot; but I changed my mind and now I want to be a police officer.”
Whitley, the son Alan Keith Whitley and Stacy Carter Whitley, came to Early College from La Grange Elementary and E.B. Frink Middle schools. “It’s been a great opportunity for me. I like the small classes and the personal attention. Since everything is so small here, you get a lot more close-knit relationships than I think you would get at a regular high school.”
Like 18 of his classmates – and most Early College students – Whitley spent five years in the program and graduates as a Super Senior. Nine in the Class of 2017 completed the program in four years.
Kayci Willis is one of them. She’ll graduate next month with her high school diplomas and two associate degrees – in arts and in science – from Lenoir Community College. In the fall, she will attend N.C. State University to major in environmental technology and management.
“My dad went to N.C. State and when we toured there he was so happy with it that I became happy with it,” she said. “The College of Natural Resources made me feel at home there.”
A student at Banks Elementary and Frink Middle, Willis said Early College was the right choice for her final four years in LCPS. “This was the school for me,” she said. “It’s a really close-knit family environment. The teachers are really helpful and the small class sizes make learning easier. It was perfect.”
The Class of 2017 graduates from Lenoir County Early College High School on May 10. Most members of the class will be awarded their college degrees the next night.