HGTC Presenting Diplomas to 55 Early College High Students
High School Students Graduate with Associate Degree at May Commencement.
Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC) is proud to once again present college diplomas to Early College High School students at the Commencement Ceremony May 12. This year, 55 Horry County Schools students will have the opportunity to walk across the stage at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center to receive an associate degree diploma during their senior year, just prior to their high school graduation in June.
Early College High School opened in 2006 on the HGTC Conway Campus with its first class of 9th grade students representing the nine (9) high schools within Horry County Schools. It was deliberately designed as a small learning community of 400 students where each student is provided with intensive, personalized support needed to meet high standards and successfully pursue both a high school diploma and an associate degree while in high school. It remains a model for innovation across the country with more than 50% of the Early College High School seniors earning both their high school diploma and associate degree from HGTC on average annually.
"We were able to make the vision of an Early College High School a realization because of the passion and commitment of HGTC faculty and staff with ‘whatever it takes' attitudes. Our team refused to accept barriers, believed deeply in the potential of all students, and dedicated their careers to proving that the dream of a college education and productive citizenship could become a reality for every student," said Dr. Marilyn Murphy Fore, HGTC President.
Early College High School has served to lead and enhance the HGTC effort to expand dual credit opportunities for high school students across Horry and Georgetown Counties and served as a model for other Early College programs in the state.
Nationally, an average of about 30 percent of students graduate from early college programs with an associate degree. Approximately 55% of Early College High School students in each graduating class complete an associate degree by the time they graduate from high school. This year, approximately 57% percent of the Class of 2021 are estimated to earn an associate degree no later than August 2021. Students also have the option to choose a career path their senior year that will help them enter the workforce immediately after graduation with a stable career. Those certificate programs include areas such as Welding, Diesel Mechanic, HVAC, Cosmetology, and Patient care. Other students have the option to choose a different associate degree program during their senior year that includes programs such as Culinary Arts, Computer programming, Business Administration, Digital Arts, etc. Those students plan to return to HGTC after high school graduation for one additional year to complete those associate degrees.
"ECHS provides a wonderful opportunity for all students, regardless of the post-secondary path and career they wish to pursue. We are so proud of the Class of 2021, and all of our students, for their resiliency, strength, and character," said Nicole Adams, School Counselor for Early College High School.
Angel Rivera, Early College High Graduate
One proud member of the Class of 2021 is Angel Rivera. Originally from the Bronx, New York, he discovered his love for the beach while visiting the area as a child with his family. Unfortunately, when his parents divorced, he had to move back and forth between living with his father in New York to living with his mother in Myrtle Beach. He did not permanently reside in the area until the eighth grade; however, it was in that critical transition year that his guidance counselor saw his potential to complete the Early College High School application process. Nervous about enrolling, his English teacher stepped up to assist with his responses.
Today, that shy and uncertain 13-year-old boy is on track to be valedictorian of his senior class at Early College High School with dreams of becoming a psychiatrist to help those with mental health issues. This focus of study is near to his heart as family members have dealt with overcoming those issues. He realizes how stressful it can be to deal with anxiety, depression, and many other health related issues. Because of that, he decided to go into a field where he can help people in a more practical way such as medicine and psychotherapy. Rivera plans to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia and work towards his bachelor's degree in psychology before going to medical school.
"Early College High School was one of the best experiences of my life. I would not be where I am today without Early College. It opened a gateway for me to advance quickly into what I want to do," said Rivera. "The faculty and staff always made sure that the students were succeeding. If I were struggling in a class, they would ask to help and make sure I understood the material. They even helped me with personal issues."
Sometimes having a job, finishing schoolwork, and supporting his family can be a challenge. Rivera is balancing work and academics and working approximately 30-40 hours per week at Top Golf. He supports his family when he can especially since he is being raised by a single mother who is also working.
Iysis Rutledge, Early College High Graduate
Early College High School is a program that supports and gives students what they need to succeed in life. Iysis Rutledge says that her experience at Early College High School was "life changing" because it gave her the tools and skills she needed to prepare for college. Life circumstances were not always ideal growing up in the Georgetown area. There were times when her family of six were homeless. Others would have never known what she was dealing with outside of school because she persevered, and her academics never faltered.
Once they moved to Myrtle Beach, her mother was able to secure a steady job and a stable home.
Like Rivera, Rutledge is a first-generation college student. Her family was astonished at the idea that she could go into a program like Early College and earn an associate degree at such a young age along with a high diploma. She started something new in her family by being the first college graduate.
Early College was introduced to her at the beginning of her middle school years. She says that her guidance counselor really connected with her and spent time explaining the different programs available. The moment in eighth grade when she received the application, she could see how the program would benefit her. Her guidance counselor encouraged her decision that she says changed her life for the better.
"If it were not for my experience at Early College, I feel like I would not be where I am today. I would probably be stressed about where to go to college. I feel like I would not know where I want to be in life. Without Early College, I would just be another lost senior in high school," she said. After graduation, Rutledge plans to attend Coastal Carolina University to major in biology. She hopes to further her education in medical school and become a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology.
While not all Early College High School's Class of 2021 will leave with an associate degree, they will all leave with the confidence that they can succeed in college because they have already done it. Over 500 students have graduated with an associate degree since the school's inception.
Demetrius Williams, the new principal for Early College High School said, "I am so very proud of the students in the Class of 2021. These students are to be commended for their personal commitment to reaching the goals they set for themselves. The last year and a half have been especially difficult, but the students chose to rise above the pandemic and persevere through the challenges that they faced. As a school, our focus this year has been on giving students the support to develop the skills to be flexible, adaptable, and resilient as they worked on completing their college courses. The perseverance of our students was the epitome of our school's focus on being flexible, adaptable, and resilient and we could not be prouder. The partnership with Horry Georgetown Technical College has created amazing opportunities for the students of Early College High School to earn a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. It is not every day that a student can boast that they are a college graduate before they are a high school, but Early College High School students have the opportunity to be college graduates first. We are grateful for the supportive relationship and look forward to increasing the number of college graduates each year."