It’s the last week of high school and community college for 32 students in the Richmond Early College High School (REaCH) at Richmond Community College.
Twenty-nine are “Super Seniors” who were the first cohort of the five-year program and are known as “The Legacy Class,” and three are seniors finishing a year early. All but two will receive an associate degree at graduation along with their high school diploma. The other two students chose to major in Mechanical Engineering Technology. For some, the next stop is a university; for others, it is the workforce.
Sitting in Katherine Ulrich’s British Literature class, students are discussing projects for next year’s students. A great legacy to leave a school is the knowledge you’ve gained while being there. They all say they are happy to have chosen to attend REaCH. Parents may have started the discussion that resulted in their getting two years of college at no cost, but they made it happen.
“I didn’t want to come, but am glad I did,” said Kye Bright of Hamlet, who plans to enter the Marines. “I like the one-on-one relationship you have with teachers. It has been challenging and the college courses were different. You are required to talk in front of the class for five minutes in some of the college courses. You have to talk in job interviews for more than that, so it’s good thing to learn to do it.”
As an eighth grader, Mason Parody of Rockingham knew he wanted to be an engineer. He also liked the idea of getting two years of college for free. He graduates in Mechanical Engineering Technology and has been an intern with Progress Energy. He was offered a job by a local industry, but decided to continue his education at N.C. State University in their engineering program.
“The fact that it was a free college degree was important, but RCC’s Mechanical Engineering program is recognized by universities as a good program,” said Parody.
Angelia Arguijo of Hamlet was concerned about missing her friends, but quickly made new ones. She plans to go to UNCP and later to UNC Chapel Hill to study pharmacy.
“I enjoyed having the opportunity to learn and to get a chance to see into the college world. I think everyone was pretty welcoming,” she said.
Jamilah Dawkins of Hamlet said she felt comfortable her freshman year, but admits it was a big transition. She enters UNC Chapel Hill in the fall and wants to study nursing.
“As ninth graders, we changed classes like we did in middle school and were pretty noisy. Classes here don’t all stop and start at the same time. We had to learn to be quiet. It’s not an issue any more, but it was a big one for a while,” she said.
Matthew Vincett of Rockingham is heading off to UNC Greensboro for a degree in creative writing. He can’t think of anything he would like to change, but does lament the loss of the good high school teachers who came and left after a year or two.
“You miss a really good teacher,” he said.
Alicia Dunn of Hamlet said the program was amazing and is happy to have been a part of it. She heads off to Appalachian State University for a degree in chemistry.
“I never regretted my decision to be in REaCH and definitely feel prepared to continue my education. I made new friends and feel it was a great experience,” she said.
Kelsey Greene of Rockingham is one of the seniors finishing early. She plans to major in elementary education at Appalachian State University.
“I’m honored to graduate with The Legacy Class. It was stressful to cram so much together, but everyone worked with me to make it happen. I would definitely encourage people to enroll in the program. You meet great people who are honest and interesting. You get close to your teachers, the principal, and your professors. Everyone becomes a tight-knit group,” she said.
REaCH Principal Michael Chapman is completing his first year with the program and said it has been challenging to take high-flying students and increase their expectations for themselves.
“Because of my experience with these students, I am looking for opportunities to expand the program. We have concluded our interviews for the next ninth grade group. We had over 150 applicants for 50 seats. The decision process will be extremely hard because we had a tremendous number of qualified applicants,” he said.
RCC President Dale McInnis commends the students who are graduating and all of the instructors and administrators who worked to get the innovative program off of the ground. Their diligence earned REaCH recognition as a N.C. School of Excellence for the past two years.
“This class is special to me because they are the first, and I was involved in selecting some of them. Watching them grow and learn, taking advantage of this opportunity has been very powerful for our whole college,” he said.