MECC Announces Record Number of High Schoolers Earning College Credentials

Union cohort studentsBig Stone Gap – A record number of local high school students have earned their college degree or certificate at Mountain Empire Community College before their high school graduation thanks to a growth in the MECC’s dual enrollment program.

A total of 44 high school students received a college credential from MECC in 2015-16. Six of those students — a twin brother and sister from John I. Burton High School and four students from Union High school — earned their Associate Degree in General Studies. Thirty-seven students graduated with a General Education Certificate, and one student received an EMS-Basic career studies certificate. 

House Bill 1184, signed by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in April 2012, requires that each of Virginia’s Community Colleges and every local school division they serve develop agreements allowing high school students to complete an associate’s degree or a one-year general education certificate from a community college concurrent with a high school diploma.

The associate degree or general education certificate may also include credits earned through Advanced Placement (AP) as well as dual-enrollment if applicable. Since 2012, thousands of high school students across Virginia have earned college credentials, while a select few meet a higher challenge in earning their two-year degree.

What drives a high school student to complete both their high school education and college degree simultaneously?  Money, time, motivation, and parent support, according to these students.

Union senior Jon Hall noted that his parents encouraged him to complete his degree early. Hall, who will attend Virginia Tech this fall, will be able to enter college as a sophomore. That idea also appealed to fellow Union senior Beth Miller. “I liked the thought of having two years of my education already completed so that I will have more time in the future to either go to graduate school or to start my career at an earlier age.  The cost to get my associates degree in high school has been a fraction of the cost for a normal college student.  This appealed to me as it is a great option financially.”

Burton High School Senior Jazlyn Adams was motivated to set high goals for herself. Although she was heavily involved in sports, forensics, yearbook and other activities, she says, “I have always wanted to do different things and set high goals for myself. The biggest challenge I faced was learning to adapt to a college atmosphere and balancing my high school activities with a college course load.  To obtain this degree, I not only took dual enrollment classes, but took summer and night classes in addition to my high school courses, beginning my sophomore year.”

Jazlyn’s brother Tra, also juggled sports and activities. Choosing between high school and college activities was sometimes difficult. “College classes are much more strenuous and the addition of them to my already tough schedule made it very difficult.  I also did not want to miss out on enjoying high school and the clubs and activities that I had always enjoyed.”

Completing both a degree and high school diploma is not for every student, added Union Senior Alexis Stapleton. Although the work is challenging, the experience prepares students for the next step in their educational journey. “I would absolutely recommend this program to others. Not only does it give a student the opportunity to experience a truly unique experience, it also prepares the student for the rigors of a four-year university, and teaches them a set of skills needed as a real college student,” Stapleton said.

Local High School Students earning a credential at MECC in 2016 include:

  • James Winston Adams III from John I. Burton High School- Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies and Certificate in General Education
  • Jazlyn Whitney Adams from John I. Burton High School- Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies and Certificate in General Education
  • Jonathan Lee Hall from Union High School- Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies and Certificate in General Education
  • Frances Elizabeth Miller from Union High School- Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies and Certificate in General Education
  • Gavin Bryce Spears from Union High School- Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies and Certificate in General Education
  • Alexis Brooke Stapleton from Union High School- Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies and Certificate in General Education
  • Eric Douglas Blankenship from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Noah Eli Bledsoe from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Thomas Andrew Cassell from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Tannor Blake Cates from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Tiffany L. Cole from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Nicolas Chase Collins from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Brandon Heath Combs from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Derrick Jean Cusano from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Dylan Blake Dockery from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Hannah Elizabeth Dysart from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Alecia Ann Estep from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Sean Aaron Ghammashi from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Matthew Hunter Gilliam from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • David Clayton Goodman from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Kermit Lamar Hall III from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Taylor Gabrielle Hamilton from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Charisma Jobenna Hunter from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Faith Elizabeth Jackson from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Austin Blake Johnson from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Richard Patton Johnson II from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Chasity Amanda Kirk from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Karlee H. Lovelace from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Abigail Brooke McKinney from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Christopher John McKnight from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Dakota Lee Messer from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Marissa Dawn Mullins from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Alexandria Nicole Pridemore from Eastside High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Wesley Allen Qualls from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Devon Markus Simon from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Peyton Stewart Stallard from John I. Burton High School- Career Studies Certificate in Emergency Medical Technician: Basic
  • Samantha Elaine Sturgill from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Michael Jericho Taylor from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Emily M. Trent from John I. Burton High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Kayla Rose Vicente from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Ken Kim-Long Vo from Union High School- Certificate in General Education
  • Nathan A. Ward from John I. Burton- Certificate in General Education
  • Evan McCaleb West from John I. Burton- Certificate in General Education
  • Ciaran Michael Wheatley from Union High School- Certificate in General Education

For more information on dual enrollment opportunities for high school students, please contact your high school counselor, or MECC Dual Enrollment Coordinator John Bledsoe at 276.523.2400 ext. 307.

Photo Left to Right (Tim Cox): These Union High School students participated in the 2015-16 MECC dual enrollment cohort program.