Dual Enrollment graduates

Eight students from Cedartown and Rockmart High School are graduating with diplomas and degrees this year. They include Guillermo Aguilar, Makenzy Barker, Baylee Davenport, John Finlay, Mirista Watts, Graice Coats, Robyn James and Bethanie Thomason. / Kevin Myrick

  • A group of eight Rockmart and Cedartown grads finish up work at GHC in a dual-enrollment program.

More students than ever are graduating now able to head into their years of college with a plethora of credits to give them a jump ahead of their peers. By the time students graduate this week from Cedartown and Rockmart high schools, they’ll be doing so with enough hours to get to skip some of those freshman year courses at universities across the country that might feel like a repeat of what they just learned.

Yet a growing number of students are also leaving school not just with a diploma and some credit hours, but with degrees as well.

Polk School District has eight graduates this year who have already walked across the stage for the Georgia Highlands commencement to receive degree certificates, and now this weekend they’ll be joining the Class of 2018 for one more ceremony before they have to get ready for the next step coming this fall. This year’s list of double graduates includes Guillermo Aguilar, Makenzy Barker, Baylee Davenport, John Finlay, Mirista Watts, Gracie Coats, Robyn James and Bethanie Thomason.

Each have their own particular dreams they hope to go after when they graduate this year. Several in this year’s group of graduates are working toward jobs in the medical field once they finish their education, and this provides them with the ability to cut down some of that time it would take to complete degrees that take years of training needed to become health providers.

Barker, Coats, Davenport, Finlay and Watts all said they want to go into one field or another involving medicine.

For instance, Finlay wants to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering via the U.S. Navy’s ROTC program, and continue on to get his medical doctorate. Barker said her goal is to attend the University of West Georgia to study biology for the pre-med program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with the intent of one day becoming a plastic surgeon.

Coats wants to become a virologist and one day with at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Watts wants to study biology at West Georgia as well, but isn’t sure yet what she’s going to do after that.

Davenport is still waiting for her acceptance into a nursing program.

“I won’t find out until the second week of June, but if I get accepted I will go on through Georgia Highlands and do that for two years, and get my BS (Bachelor’s of Science) from there,” Davenport said. “Then I want to transfer somewhere and get my masters and doctorate and become a nurse practitioner.”

This graduating group isn’t all focused on helping people heal. Aguilar for instance wants to go on and study business administration at Georgia Highlands, with an eye toward getting his master’s at West Georgia in the field.

Thomason is focused on studying to go into a career in law enforcement.

“I’ve applied and gotten into Jacksonville State, and I want to major in psychology with a minor in criminal justice,” she said. “I want to go work for the GBI.”

And James is hoping to get a degree in communications from Tuskegee University, then finish up her education with a master’s in journalism from Georgia State.

Just getting to the point where they can earn both a diploma and a degree hasn’t been easy. It’s taken years of work and dedication to their studies, and sacrifices. Yet for all of them, even though the process wasn’t easy, the benefits of taking college classes in high school outweigh the downsides. Especially when looking forward into the future to when they might actually get to start their careers.

“I know normally my education would be 9½ years,” Davenport said.

Future potential dual enrollment graduates have been asking the group for advice on the process, and what classes they should take to succeed, the group reported.

They have just one piece of advice for those seeking both a diploma and degree: put forth a full effort.

“Don’t go into it halfway,” Barker said. “You have to put in way more effort into it than you would your normal high school classes.”

This is the second group of graduates with both diplomas and degrees from Polk School District. In the Class of 2017, six seniors took part in both high school and college commencement ceremonies.