The first day of school is an exercise in anxiety.
Students shuffle in nervous about their teachers and peers, not knowing quite where or how they will fit in this year. For the 62 high school freshmen beginning school on East Mississippi Community College’s Mayhew campus, an extra dose of uncertainty was added.
Monday marked the first day of class for Golden Triangle Early College High School, the first school of its kind in Mississippi.
GTECHS offered students entering the ninth grade enrolled in public school in Lowndes, Clay, Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties the opportunity to attend a different type of high school, one that offers its students an opportunity to take dual-enrollment course at EMCC and the potential to finish high school with a diploma and an associates degree.
Officials from across the region and state came to welcome the students to a phenomenon that is likely to explode statewide.
“Y’all are famous,” EMCC President Dr. Thomas Huebner said. “You’re the first. I have to tell you, not just the first for this school, but the first in Mississippi. That’s pretty awesome. I had a chance to meet parents and a number of you. Here’s what I’m thinking.. You’re going to be famous someday and we are proud you’re getting your start here.”
GTECHS has attracted independent, driven students from across the region.
Cameron Farmer of West Point approached his parents Taye and Marlin Pruitt about applying to the school last spring. Farmer’s interest in the school was a pleasant surprise for his parents, who said they were curious about the curriculum and new set-up.
“I was very happy,” Marlin Pruitt said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to get an associates degree for free.”
Farmer said the school had passed his first day evaluation with enthusiastic teachers and tasty food.
Student Nakea Forest of West Point addressed her new peers and community members Monday.
“I chose the early college program because I wanted surrounded by others interested in getting the most our of their education,” Forest said. “People who don’t bully or judge others because of their differences, but encourage each other.”
Mississippi superintendent of education Dr. Carey Wright came to welcome students to GTECHS. She told The Dispatch her office is hearing interest in starting similar programs in regions across the state.
“As members of this inaugural class, you’re transforming what it means to be a high school student in Mississippi,” Wright said. “You will be challenged and enriched by college level material and you will be given the support you need to be successful.”
GTECHS got a boost to its startup funds from Bank First, who donated $20,000 to the school Monday and promised to be the school’s first business partner.
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