When we had the opportunity to apply to Early College at the end of the 8th grade, I thought if I was able to take college classes for free in high school, it would be a huge burden off my mother — she’s a single parent and has my two younger siblings to provide for. I also thought this would make me a better student and give me opportunities others did not have.
For me, math was always a struggle in school. I did not pass my EOG in 8th grade. I continued to struggle in Algebra I in high school and had to repeat the class because my math foundation just wasn’t strong enough yet to move to the more advanced courses.
However, at the end of my second year in Early College, I not only had completed Algebra I successfully and scored a level 3 on my EOC, but in the 2nd semester, I completed Algebra II with a 3 on the EOC. At our award ceremony, I received the award for highest academic average in Algebra I and Algebra II. I am now taking pre-calculus and doing well in the class!
The impact of Early College went beyond just my coursework. Because of Early College, I encouraged my mother to go back to school. She has finished and is now a certified dialysis technician. It was really cool to be attending the same college at the same time. We encouraged each other when we felt like we could not make it and helped each other when we had a test to study for or a paper to complete.
All of my Early College teachers and the support staff are very encouraging and will push you to your limit. At first, I struggled with this, but once I saw what I could accomplish, I appreciated what they did for me.
Early College has helped me to understand my responsibility for my learning and to deal with my issues instead of blaming others and giving up on myself. The great thing about Columbia Early College is the sense of belonging I feel. I know the Early College staff will always be there before school starts and after school ends, if I need them. I feel Early College has given me the chance to see what college is like, but with support to keep me moving forward. It has provided many outside experiences such as college campus visits, cultural activities and attending the College Roundup at Edgecombe Community College.
When I went to the College Roundup last year, I was able to meet with Historically Black College representatives, as well as colleges from other states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina — places I would never be able to travel to. Something clicked when I talked with the representative from Bennett College in Greensboro. Last fall, during Open Application Week, I applied to Bennett College and was accepted. This fall, I will be a Bennett College freshWOMAN.
Because of Early College, I was able to start taking college classes my freshmen year and will graduate with eight college credits including Western Civilizations I and II. I have proven to myself that I can be successful in college classes and I am confident that I will be successful when I continue my education at Bennett. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend an Early College High School.
Shamari Spencer is a proud 2012 graduate of Columbia Early College High School, an NCNSP-partner school in Tyrrell County.