EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - Hundreds of students walked the stage Friday during various college graduate ceremonies, some of whom did so just days before receiving their high school diplomas.
Students from Longview and Tyler high schools walked the stages at Tyler Junior College and Kilgore College Friday afternoon, accepting their associate’s degree after completing a dual credit program with their respective Early College High Schools.
“Today, we got our associate’s degrees; I got mine in arts,” said Tyra Young, TJC graduate. “It’s kind of weird, we’re not even done with high school yet. We finished college before we finished high school.”
Young was one of more than 125 students who attended Early College High School in Tyler, a campus dedicated to students with the aim of completing high school while taking a full college course load.
“When I heard about Early College High School, I heard about the opportunity to gain 2 to 3 years of college before I even get out of high school, I knew this was for me,” said Nicole Grayson, TJC graduate. “We’re actually the first graduating class for Tyler ISD.”
Young said her class dropped to less than half of its size even before her junior year, which not only them closer as a class, but it made the journey that much sweeter.
For students like Adal Olivarez, walking the stage meant more than receiving the benefits of 4 years of hard work; it meant excelling in a way to make his parents proud.
“Both of my parents came from Mexico, they both sacrificed a lot to get me an education,” said Olivarez. “They never had an education, and I just completed two years of college. It’s really a blessing.”
Kilgore College welcomed 36 students to its commencement ceremonies after Longview High School students completed a similar program.
“They have to have 60 hours to graduate, and they have done that,” said Terry Booker, dual credit coordinator with Kilgore College. “We’re very excited to have these 36 students.”
The 36 graduates are also the first bunch to complete Early College High School in Longview.
“It’s a great partnership we’ve had with [Kilgore College] for the past 4 year, and these kids are the first ones to take advantage of it,” said Booker. “They’ve worked really so hard... they’ve risen to the occasion.”
For the students who finished the journey, they’re looking ahead to another journey towards their 4-year degree. However, they have advice for students thinking about following in their paths.
“If you put in hard work, you’ll make it. If you stay up at night, if you do your work and do what you’re supposed to, if you really have a passion for bettering your future, bettering yourself, and getting an education, I’d say this is for you,” said Grayson.
“Honestly, I think it’s worth it if you really enjoy education and make that a priority in your life,” said Young.
“It’s truly a blessing, I’m speechless, honestly," said Olivarez. “Graduating with 62 hours after 4 years of high school, it’s exciting.”