Last week, we were thrilled to welcome back two alumnae from the first two graduating cohorts of the Reynolds ACA at J.R. Tucker High School: Jordan Carrier (’15) and Logan Brown (’16). Jordan and Logan took time out of their Spring Breaks at the University of Mary Washington and The George Washington University to join us for a presentation to the State Board for Community Colleges. Here are their stories:
I was fourteen when I made the decision to join the inaugural class of the Advance College Academy and I can’t help but look back at that little girl and thank her for not doing what was easy, but what was best for her future. It would have been easy for me to continue with the International Baccalaureate Program, but I was intrigued by the opportunities this new program offered me. It seemed far-fetched, even impossible, that I could get a college degree while I was in high school and go into my four-year university as a Junior.
A few years later, I remember my first real college classes, and wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into. But in retrospect, I was gaining such a valuable edge over other high school students. When I started my first year at the University of Mary Washington, my peers did not see the value in actually reading the assignments for class and had not learned how to write for college classes. What I had struggled through in high school I watched my new classmates struggle through in college, where other pressures and stresses were so much greater than in the safety of Tucker High School.
Every single credit I took through Reynolds Community College in the ACA program transferred to Mary Washington and counted toward my major and toward my general education requirements, allowing me to graduate this coming May. While it is bittersweet, graduating before everyone else my age, I am so much closer to accomplishing my goals than I would have been without this program. I have been accepted into the Richmond Law Class of 2020 and will begin a new journey there this fall. Also, as an Economics Major, I have a fuller appreciation for the financial benefit of cutting my undergraduate student debt in half.
The time and fiscal benefits of this program are easy to see. But I place so much more value on the skills I gained by being pushed toward excellence by our mentors and teachers. They instilled in me a drive to do my best work, a willingness to be the best I could be, and the overwhelming desire to make them proud of me. I hope that so far I have.
Jordan transferred 60 college credits from the Reynolds ACA to UMW and will graduate with a B.S. in Economics in May, 2017, after only two years at UMW. In August, 2017, she will begin law school at the University of Richmond on a full academic scholarship. She anticipates being able to earn her law degree at the age of 23.
In 2012, I accepted a position in Reynolds Community College’s Advance College Academy as a 13 year old middle school student. I was nervous about my decision, not because the reality of high school was quickly approaching but because the program was the first of its kind in Virginia and there were many questioning the likelihood of its success. Questions like “Are high school students capable of mastering college coursework?” and “How will the program experience and the degree affect them in the long run?” were primarily given answers that generally fell along the lines of “We aren’t quite sure yet.” While that answer may have deterred some, it interested me as well as my fellow classmates and we became a unique blend of trailblazers, pioneers, and guinea pigs over the course of our high school experience.
In 2016 I was a part of the second class that graduated from Reynolds Community College’s Advance College Academy with an AS in Social Science while simultaneously earning my high school diploma from J.R. Tucker High School. Today, 5 years after my decision to join the Advance College Academy in 2012, I stand before you as a freshman at The George Washington University studying International Affairs and Philosophy at the highly regarded Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington D.C. As an academic junior, I excel in my level 300 coursework. My professors frequently applaud the quality of work I produce and have extended a multitude of research assistantships to me.
While I believe that the ACA has more than adequately prepared me for college academics, to accredit ACA with only my academic success undercuts the profound impact that the program has had on my life. Professionally, having an Associate’s Degree in Social Science has afforded me access to a job market that eludes most college students until they have graduated. When I say this, I am speaking directly to my part time job as a legal analyst at the Council of Better Business Bureaus where I investigate trademark and copyright infringement matters with the purpose of increasing the trust between buyer and seller markets in the business economy. I am also qualified for a wide range of internships and will be researching micro-finance operations in Tamale, Ghana this summer.
ACA has clearly had a positive impact on my life, both academically and professionally. Although my experiences and opportunities are unique in nature, the ability to access and qualify for various jobs and internships is shared amongst all of my classmates who were in ACA. As a group, we graduated from the program well prepared for the job market and the continuation of our education due to the supportive structure and climate of the ACA program. The skill sets, friendships and networking relationships we have formed and developed over the course of our four years in the program are lifelong and will continue to impact us in the future.
In closing, I would like to thank the faculty of Reynolds Community College and the Advance College Academy for their investment in me at the age of 13, as they were confident that I would have a successful future even when I may have doubted myself at times. Reynolds Community College and the Advance College Academy have shaped and refined numerous students who will undoubtedly have a profound impact on their communities.
Because The George Washington University, a private institution, accepted 45 of Logan's college credits from the Reynolds ACA, she is eligible to graduate with a B.A. in International Affairs in December, 2018, after just two-and-a-half years at GW. Logan is electing to stay the full four years in order to earn two more degrees at GW: both a B.A. and an M.A in Philosophy. Armed with her associates, two bachelors and a masters degree by the time she is 22, she will then pursue her J.D. with a concentration in international and human rights law.
Reynolds College President, Dr. Gary Rhodes, sent the following email after last week's presentation:
I can’t express enough the pride I felt yesterday as I watched the ACA presentation to the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges. It was clear that the chancellor and state board members were all listening intently and interested in the great “jump start” that the program offers to our Reynolds students...As someone in a leadership role now as college president and often thinking about the future, it gave me a sense of calm to know that our future will be led by individuals of your caliber.