05/24/13 — Sixty-nine earn diplomas at Wayne Early Middle College ceremony

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Sixty-nine earn diplomas at Wayne Early Middle College ceremony

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on May 24, 2013 1:46 PM

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Joi Body, left, turns her tassel with her classmates during Wayne Early Middle College High School's commencement ceremony at The Bridge in Princeton on Thursday. Many of the 70 graduates have received their associate's degrees in addition to high school diplomas.

Arely Vazquez didn't want to go to Wayne Early Middle College High School.

But after turning her tassel Thursday at the Bridge Church with 69 of her classmates, she couldn't imagine having gone anywhere else.

"I was really into sports and this school didn't have any sports," Miss Vazquez said. "But my parents told me not to give up this opportunity, so I came."

Now she is excited that she was able to earn her associate's degree of arts before she even received her high school diploma. But getting there Thursday was not without its challenges. For Miss Vazquez, the biggest was balancing college classes while being so young and still in high school.

"I had to learn how to study like a college person," she said. "I learned how to do everything like an adult while I was still kind of growing up. But I wouldn't trade it for the world."

She explained that freshmen at Wayne Early Middle College High School take about three high school classes in the morning and a couple college classes in the afternoon.

"As you go up in school, you get more college classes," she said. "By your junior year, you're allowed to take as many college classes as you want, as long as you keep your grades up. By your senior year, it usually goes down to one college class per semester."

She said her best memory of school was that first day when she and all the other freshmen in her class walked through the doors of Wayne Community College scared -- a feeling that soon faded.

"If I had gone to a regular high school, I wouldn't be standing here with an associate degree," Ms. Vazquez said. "And if I hadn't come here, I honestly don't know if I would have gone to college."

Julio Morales' biggest challenge also was managing his time with the extra work.

"Sometimes you have to give up something," he said. "I really like video games, and that had to go."

Morales said he decided to go to Wayne Early Middle College High School because it was such a great opportunity. But it was a hard decision, too, because his friends were going to a regular high school.

He plans to go to North Carolina State University to major in biomedical engineering.

"This day came really fast," Morales said. "Four years ago I didn't think it would come this fast."

At the beginning of the graduation ceremony, principal Lee Johnson praised the students.

"You recognized the opportunity to do something special," she said. "You were willing to do something different; you looked past your fears to become college students at an early age. You were willing to pay the high price over the past four years."

She told the student she had no doubt that they were the leaders of tomorrow.

One of the speakers was senior Elizabeth Breedlove, who told her fellow classmates that there's one thing they all embrace -- difference.

"To each his own; it never occurred to me how beautiful that is," she said. "No matter who you are, your unique talents are what will make you special.

"This school fosters individuality. We didn't want to fit in with everybody. We reached high above expectations."

Ms. Breedlove challenged the students to hold onto their differences, their oddities.

"We are all different, but there's nothing bad about that," she said.

After the students turned their tassels, senior Josh Wiggins told them this was the end -- the end of the ceremony, the end of the semester, the end of school and the end of their journey that began four years ago.

"The journey has changed us from children to young adults," he said. "We have crossed the finish line. We can call ourselves graduates.

"This journey has come to an end, but another one has opened up. With every ending comes a new beginning. We will venture into the unknown of life and see what life has in store for us."