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LEC students excel at CCCC

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06.19.2019College & CommunityCollege GeneralStudents/Graduates

SANFORD - Eight high schoolers were among about 100 students receiving top college departmental awards at the 24th annual Central Carolina Community College Academic Excellence Awards celebration.

They were attending Lee Early College, a public high school operated by Lee County Schools in cooperation with CCCC on the college campus in Sanford. Early college students enroll in ninth grade to pursue an accelerated academic program where they can earn their high school diploma and an associate degree in five years or less.

Nearly all of the departmental awards presented during the celebration on May 8 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center recognized honorees either for academic excellence or as an outstanding student in their academic discipline.

Students honored for academic excellence must earn a grade point average of 3.75 or above -- overall and in their academic programs -- and display other outstanding qualities. Lee Early College recipients were high school senior Madison Cottrell in English, junior Mackenzie Roche in the Associate in Arts curriculum and senior Rebecca Rios in accounting.

Academic departments select their own criteria for honoring outstanding students, but generally present awards based on exceptional work, overcoming challenges or going well beyond typical expectations. Lee Early College recipients were high school senior Sara Anderson in psychology, senior Luke Brown in math, senior Jonathan Malcolm in history, senior Joshua Smith in the Associate in Engineering curriculum and sophomore Audrey Thomas in Chinese.

It's not unusual for Lee Early College students to earn college awards, according to Nick Testa, the success coach at Lee Early College who serves as a liaison between the public school and community college. But it is rare to have so many.

"We always have at least one and for a couple of years, we even had two to three," he said. "But this year was exceptional. It's the fact that there were eight of them -- and that they were across a variety of subjects."

Lee Early College accolades weren't limited to current students. Three alumni also were among those honored as outstanding students: Jordan Schwab in medical assisting, Laura Luviano in broadcast production technology and Jordan McKay in computer engineering technology.

The accomplishment didn't surprise principal Kisha Derr, who said the school works hard to prepare students for success in college courses. That includes aligning high school and college curricula for a seamless transition to higher-level courses and working closely with college faculty to make sure students have the support they need to succeed.

But most of the credit goes to the students, themselves, who Derr describes as "intelligent, outspoken and hard-working young leaders."

"Our students are strong and fiercely determined," she says. "It's our students' work ethic and perseverance that determines their success. It's not necessarily about being smart, because being smart means very little without having the courage and strength to recover from setbacks. I am proud of them for daring to be themselves. I cannot wait to see what they accomplish in the future."

As CCCC's Dean of Arts, Sciences and Advising, Scott Byington works with college students of all ages, on several campuses and across academic disciplines. He says CCCC is fortunate to work with what he describes as "remarkable high school students" attending early colleges in Lee, Chatham and Harnett counties.

"Early colleges provide an exceptional opportunity for these students to advance their education and allow CCCC to offer a greater range of classes and programs for all of our students," he said. "We are always pleased when we can celebrate the extraordinary successes of these students as they enter the workforce or transfer to senior institutions."

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