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Daring to dream pays off for 42 who chose Early College over traditional path

By Sarah Campbell
scampbell@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — Kelly Misenheimer was one “proud papa” as he watched his daughter, Kayla, graduate from Rowan County Early College on Friday.
And he has the Facebook post to prove it.
“I already uploaded a photo to Facebook,” he said after the commencement exercises.
That pride will grow today when Kayla receives her associate’s degree from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
“Nobody has graduated from college in my family,” he said. “She’s the first one, so that’s nice.”
Eighty-six percent of the school’s first graduating class are first-generation college students. Thirty-eight of the 42 graduates are receiving both a diploma and associate’s degree.
“If you are the first in your family to earn college credit or to go to college, you need to understand that you have now changed the expectations for your family,” Principal Dr. Cindy Misenheimer said. “Not just for yourself but for the generations who come after you, and that’s powerful stuff.”
Yakeima White said it’s “an accomplishment” to complete high school and college at the same time.
“It’s exciting because we are the first,” she said.
Misenheimer said students in the school’s first class dared to dream.
“They did not follow the path of their peers, they did not follow tradition, they did not take the safe and familiar path to high school,” she said. “As you are aware, it’s not always easy to be the first to do anything.”
Students overcome a number of challenges to get to graduation, Misenheimer said.
“Some of you have experienced the death of your parents; some of you have been homeless; some of you have failed classes; some of you have received non-acceptance letters to colleges; and many more challenges,” she said. “But you have all persevered, every last one of you.”
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom also used the phrase “dare to dream” as she spoke to graduates, quoting writer Julie Ford.
“Let nothing hold you back from exploring your wildest fantasies, wishes and aspirations,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to dream big and to follow your dreams wherever they may lead you.
“Open your eyes to their beauty, open your mind to their magic, open your heart to their possibilities.”
Grissom said school officials dared to dream when the concept for the Early College was put on the table.
“We explored the possibilities, we spent an entire year going to meetings, visiting other sites, planning, developing budgets, creating an application for students, hiring a principal, hiring teachers and so on,” she said. “Four years ago, the first group of students dared to dream by choosing the Rowan Early College for their high school.”
Grissom said school officials could not be any prouder of a group of young people than they were of the first class of Early College graduates.
“You have certainly made one of my dreams come true to see you here tonight,” she said.
Salutatorian Summer McIntyre, who plans to study accounting at Appalachian State University, recounted the 1,380 days that have passed since freshmen year, admitting to procrastination and reminiscing about friendships made along the way.
“It may have taken us 1,380 days to get where we are through the ups and downs, but in the end, it was well worth it,” she said.
When valedictorian Leslie Bean took the stage for her speech, she drew inspiration from movie character Buzz Lightyear.
“To infinity and beyond,” she said.
Bean, who will be attending Liberty University for biblical studies, told students to depend on “our creator and savior.”
“Through ups and downs, we cannot always rely on our friends and our family to have our backs,” she said. “God can meet all our needs, whether physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually.”
Katie Mauzy, who will continue her education at Rowan-Cabarrus this fall, teared up at graduation Friday.
“I’d say I’m nervous for the future, but I’m excited about the step we’re taking,” she said. “We’re proving to the world this type of program works.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Twitter: twitter.com/posteducation
Facebook: facebook.com/Sarah.SalisburyPost

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