In a few months, many seniors are graduating from Midway High School. But only a few will walk away with an associate’s degree to start the next journey in their lives.
According to MHS officials, having four students with associates degrees from local community colleges before commencement is a first.
Dawson McLamb started taking courses at Sampson Community College (SCC) during his junior year and realized that it was possible to get an associate’s degree. McLamb’s plans to attend Fayetteville State University to study fire science. His future goals is to become a firefighter, a path he started as a volunteer for the local department.
“I got into and enjoyed it and I want to stick with it,” McLamb said.
In addition to school and sports McLamb spends a lot of time working on the family farm.
Alton Baxley found out about the Career and College Promise (CCP) program at SCC, which allows dual enrollment for high school students. After taking one course during a semester in his junior year. He continued by adding more classes during the year and during the summer. His peers learned about the program and took on the challenge of getting a head start on a bachelor’s degree. Baxley plans to major in soil sciences and other agriculture related studies at North Carolina State University.
Like McLamb, Baxley also volunteers with the fire department and has a job in produce farming.
“It’s about time management and finding time to do stuff,” Baxley said. “I’l be on a tractor at work doing discussion boards for art appreciation or public speaking. When ever I get home, I’ll have to work on it too.
“It’s taught me how to allocate time to do things that are going to be important in the long run and it taught me a lot of time management skills,” Baxley said.
Along with schoolwork, Colman Parker worked to balance time playing basketball and football.
“It was definitely tough, but I know it’s going to payoff in the end,” Parker said. “It’s going to feel good at graduation.”
At the beginning, he only planned to take a few classes, but he was encouraged to get his associate’s from SCC. After leaving MHS, he plans to study agriculture or engineering.
For Nathaniel Jacobs, the goal to get an associate’s degree before his high school graduation began during his freshman year. He started taking college courses in his sophomore year at SCC and Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC). With an associate’s degree from FTCC, his journey will continue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he plans to major in political science and American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Jacobs said there’s a possibility that he’ll probably minor in journalism or communications.
“I want to go to law school and I really have a strong passion for community service and public service,” Jacobs said.
Like his peers, Jacobs stressed that time management is essential. He uses an app to help manage courses during the week. He’s also involved in many clubs at the school, such as being a youth liaison for the Coharie Tribe. During the summer he worked on a community garden project with the tribe, which grew produce for its members for health purposes.
Jacobs is also dealing with adversity with the passing of his sister, Jessica, who received medial treatments in the hospital.
“There was often times that I would have to make sacrifices not being with her, so I can make sure that I get my work done on time,” he said.
As students, they mapped out their plan and took advantage of community college classes offered to students. They encourage their peers to do the same. Baxley would like to see school officials from the college and high school work on a plan so the option will be available during enrollment.
“You got different pathways at the high school like history, English and engineering,” he said. “It would be nice if they had a (SCC) pathway where they could take classes here and at (SCC).”
Baxley believes, it’s an alternative to attending the local early high school and not having opportunities to be a part of extracurricular activities.
“You can get the same degree that they’re getting and the same education here with same opportunities …” he said. “I would like to see our board and our counselors come together and get something planned out. If we can plan it out for ourselves, the county should be able to take initiative and plan it for people who want to get into it as well.”
Principal Monty Strickland is proud of their work, which is a first for the school.
“I think it’s amazing,” Strickland said. “When I went to college and got my associate’s degree, I was 20 years old and two years removed from high school. To be walking across the state and getting a diploma and an associate’s degree — I think that’s a big accomplishment.”
He was also impressed with how the students balanced all of their activities. Strickland also acknowledged the support of their parents, teachers and staff members at MHS.
“In high school, it’s a balancing act,” Strickland said. “Some kids play sports and some kids are involved in band and the arts. Some kids have really heavy academic loads. It’s just impressive that these young kids can balance all of that and still live a teenage life like a normal person. It’s great to see at young age that they can still be structured and balanced with fulfilling their goals.”
Strickland and the students wants to spread awareness about the opportunity.
“We want other kids to take advantage of this moving forward,” Strickland said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.