Signing Day cues emotions for commencement
Five years ago, Allison Moody was a few months out of the eighth grade at Woodington Middle and a couple of months into her first semester at Lenoir County Early College High School. Things weren’t working out.
“I tried to leave my first semester,” the 19-year-old remembered last week. “I was, like, ‘This is not for me. All my friends are at South Lenoir.’”
A conversation with Nicholas Harvey II, now the district’s assistant superintendent but then the principal at Early College, got her back on track. “He said, ‘Just stay until the end of this semester and I promise your mind will change.’ And it did. I do not regret it. I’m glad I’m here.”
So glad that she’s sad about leaving.
On Wednesday evening, in a commencement ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium at Lenoir Community College, the 45 members of Early College’s Class of 2019 will receive their high school diplomas. The next night, more than 90 percent of them will be back in the gym to receive associate degrees or certifications from LCC – among them, Allison Moody, who’s heading to UNC-Chapel Hill with her diploma, an associate of arts degree and an eye on the university’s dental program.
Along with her classmates, Allison revealed her future plans last week during Signing Day, a near-graduation event designed to give Early College scholars the same flashy what’s-next announcement stage usually reserved for star athletes. It’s an exciting atmosphere, all about the future – unless you think about it.
“I almost cried walking off the stage because I’m going to miss everybody. It was, like, wow, it’s over,” Allison said as Signing Day winded down. “Without everyone here I don’t think I would have gotten this far.”
Almost without exception, Early College students agree on their school’s advantages over traditional high schools – the opportunity to secure a diploma and two-year degree on a college campus, its small classes and close relationships among students and between students and faculty.
“The overall opportunity of this program is just great. The support system they have in place here is very good because the teachers and the staff and the college side are very helpful. They push you to do your best,” said Bryson McGlynn, 18, of Kinston, whose four years at Early College have earned him a diploma, an associate degree and a ticket to East Carolina University, where he plans to study computer science.
“What really appealed to me was that I could get two years of college for free, which would definitely reduce the financial strain on my family,” said Anna Van, 18, of Grifton. “I also wanted smaller class sizes and the more intimate relationships you could have with your teachers so they could really help you and guide you for the next four years.”
Like Allison, Anna expects to spend those next years at UNC-Chapel Hill, en route to medical school and a career as a pediatrician. She will attend UNC as a Carolina Covenant Scholar and as a Golden Leaf Scholar and will also benefit from a scholarship provided her by UNC Lenoir Health Care, where she is a volunteer.
Signing Day, she said, drove home the point that something big is about to happen. “It’s really made me feel a bit emotional because graduation’s so near and we’re all officially announcing our plans for not just the next few years but for the rest of our lives.”