Early College seniors turn tassels on May 23

It was a day of celebration for 48 Columbus Career and College Academy seniors as they crossed the stage in Southeastern Community College’s auditorium on May 23. Of those students, 39 of them received SCC credentials in the form of associate degrees, diplomas or certificates. It was the first time having the graduation ceremony at SCC in over 10 years. 

CCCA, a high school formed in partnership with Columbus County Schools, is housed on SCC’s campus and provides a free five-year program for students to earn a high school diploma and associate degree at the same time. CCCA Principal Christian Godwin said this unique approach to high school is for career-oriented students with options to explore technical programs or transfer to a university.  

“The graduation ceremony went off without a hitch,” Godwin said. “It was beautiful, and I think having it here on Southeastern’s campus was a good decision. This is their school, so I think the students liked having it here, too.” 

With students getting jobs or transferring to a university after graduation, Godwin said she could not ask for a “better return” for their education because it is tuition free. With 70 credit hours completed, Godwin said that transfer students are only left with paying for two years of college instead of four. CCCA aids those students with scholarship searches and applications.   

As a product of the early college program at Brunswick Community College, SCC’s Early College Liaison Crystal Matthis said she understood the benefits an early college provides over a traditional high school.  

“I think it’s a really smart opportunity for students around here who necessarily could not afford to go to college on their own,” Matthis said. “Early College is a good way to get ahead if you couldn’t otherwise.” 

Matthis explained that CCCA’s class of 2024 was a “division year” with half of the students joining the workforce and the other half transferring to a university.  

“This is the group that started during Covid, so they’ve had a really tough high school experience,” Matthis said. “But they’ve turned it around over the past two years, and they’ve worked really hard to get where they are. They truly owned their own plan.  

Matthis said that early college students have the advantage of taking their high school and college classes on the same campus. They are more accustomed to the college environment and can communicate with college instructors at a younger age.  

In addition to the early college experience, Matthis commended SCC’s partnership with Columbus County Schools and Whiteville City Schools for providing Career and College Promise classes and summer camp classes. She said that providing options for students was the main advantage.