HAMLET — The commencement ceremony for Richmond Early College High School was held Friday evening on the campus of Richmond Community College with 37 students receiving high school diplomas, including 33 who have also earned an associate degree from RCC, and one student who earned a certificate in criminal justice.
Sekoya Anderson, a member of REaCH’s inaugural graduating class in 2012, was the guest speaker for the event, which also included remarks from this year’s REaCH valedictorian, Dalton Johnson, and salutatorian, Weston Wilson.
Anderson fondly recalled being a member of the early college’s first class of students at RCC, saying that the group became as close as family. Johnson also spoke of the bond formed by this year’s graduates and encouraged his classmates to be aware and thankful for all those who have helped them along the way.
A connoisseur of watches, Wilson challenged those in attendance to view life like a mechanical watch that requires movement to operate.
“If you don’t do anything with your life, then you’re going to get nothing from it and waste a lot of time,” said Wilson. “But if you stay busy, you’ll wind your watch and get the most from your life.”
Other speakers during the REaCH ceremony included Student Government Association President Sarah Sweatt and the past SGA president, Anthony Bristow.
“On paper, early college looks like a bad idea,” said Bristow. “You’re putting ninth-graders in college classes and expecting them to be able to do the same work as (college students) old enough to be our parents.
“But what we found is we were able to step up to the challenge. And then our goal became to outperform those older students,” he added.
Bristow said although Friday’s commencement ceremony was a time for celebration, it was not a time for rest.
“Anyone who keeps up with the news knows that we’re in a really bad time in our country right now,” said Bristow, who referenced infighting caused by racism and sexism.
“But when I look at the early college, I see there is still hope in the world,” he said. “When I look at our school, there is no hatred. There’s no sexism, bigotry or racism. We’re just one student body.
“And I challenge all of you to go out, broaden yourself and open minds around you. Use the rest of your time here on Earth to fix the world.”
Richmond Early College High School is a partnership between Richmond County Schools, Richmond Community College and North Carolina New Schools that provides Richmond County High School students the opportunity to obtain an associate degree along with their North Carolina high school diploma.
All eighth-grade students who reside in Richmond County are eligible to apply for entrance to REaCH. Early college staff will visit each middle school during the month of February to provide information.
Admissions decisions for Richmond Early College High School are made by Richmond County Schools faculty and staff.
REaCH is one of two early college high schools affiliated with Richmond Community College, the other being Scotland Early College High School, or SEarCH.
More than 80 percent of REaCH and SEarCH graduates receive an associate degree from RCC along with their high school diploma, compared to 40 percent of early college students statewide.