SANFORD - Lee Early College (LEC) has made tremendous progress since opening in 2006.
The public school, which is operated by Lee County Schools in partnership with Central Carolina Community College (CCCC), currently is home to approximately 300 students.
The school - where students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost to the student - is located on CCCC's Lee Main Campus in Sanford.
The school lists its Mission Statement as: "Lee Early College graduates will be collaborative and critical thinkers, effective communicators, lifelong learners with an enthusiasm for curiosity, responsible citizens through positive contributions to the community, scholars, technologically proficient, and workforce ready."
"Lee Early College, one of Lee County Schools' four high schools, offers students a unique opportunity to accelerate their path to success after high school," said Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan. "Consistently ranked as one of the best high schools in North Carolina and the U.S., the faculty and staff work with students to tailor their education to meet their individual interests and career plans. Relationships with caring staff members help foster the students' ability to thrive on a small college campus and to make valuable connections in the community and beyond to achieve their goals."
Principal Kisha Derr, who has been at LEC for five years, says of the school's success: "It's all about relationships! Our teachers work hard to create an inviting and supportive learning environment for our students. In turn, our students and staff show up every day wanting to be here. They feel valued, seen, heard, connected and supported. The environment has a significant impact on academics. Students cannot learn in a place where they don't feel welcomed. Everyone is inspired to do their best -- the teachers, the students, me, everyone!"
LEC students have excelled over the years. For example, Audrey Thomas (Class of '22) was chosen for CCCC's nominee of the Great Within 58 award, also earning the Academic Excellence for Associate in Science. She also earned a CCCC diploma in Business Administration.
Other LEC students recognized for CCCC academic honor awards this year include Vicente Banuelos, Alexis Lezama, Darrell McIver, Autumn-Isabelle Owenby, Claudia Castro Reyes, Mia Sosa-Dejesus, and Jackie Vollbracht.
LEC had 21 students included into CCCC's Phi Theta Kappa this spring - with two LEC students as officers.
Nick Testa has served as the CCCC liaison for the LEC program for seven years, and previously spent two years as the school's counselor.
"The students here are so motivated and just want to be successful, so the overall success can be mostly attributed to them," said Testa.
The relationship between LEC and CCCC has drawn much praise.
"I really appreciate the support I've received from CCCC," said Derr. "They are always willing to help support us in any way they can. There is a mutual respect and support between LEC and CCCC staff. Our students feel welcomed on campus and are treated like college students."
Testa adds that a huge reason for LEC's success is the partnership between LEC and CCCC. "It is very strong and genuine and the key is that both partners are always putting students first in decision making. The partnership would not be possible without the efforts of both the LEC and CCCC staff," said Testa.
CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman says early colleges have been part of North Carolina's Learn and Earn initiative for over 17 years. "Our early colleges in Chatham, Harnett, and Lee are some of the best examples of CCCC's great partnerships with our three counties' school systems," said Dr. Chapman. "They are intentionally designed to both serve a diverse population of students that reflects the demographics of our communities, and to provide these students with the personalized programming and support that allows them to excel in their learning and academic goals.
"Many of our early college students serve as student leaders during their time at CCCC and continue that leadership and service mindset during their next stop after the college. They are not just our leaders of tomorrow, they are our leaders of today," said Dr. Chapman.
Learn more about LEC by visiting the website, www.lee.k12.nc.us/leeearly, or call the school at 919-888-4502. The school is located at the CCCC Lee Main Campus, 1105 Kelly Drive, Sanford.
Lee Early College Principal Kisha Derr says of the school's success: "It's all about relationships! Our teachers work hard to create an inviting and supportive learning environment for our students. In turn, our students and staff show up every day wanting to be here. They feel valued, seen, heard, connected and supported. ... Everyone is inspired to do their best -- the teachers, the students, me, everyone!"
Lee Early College students have excelled over the years. For example, Audrey Thomas (Class of '22) was chosen for Central Carolina Community College's nominee of the Great Within 58 award, also earning the Academic Excellence for Associate in Science. She also earned a CCCC diploma in Business Administration.
Lee Early College, which is operated by Lee County Schools in partnership with Central Carolina Community College, currently is home to approximately 300 students.