“Tonight these graduates, unlike any other graduates in the past, have had the opportunity to include both (high school) and post-secondary classes throughout their entire high school career,” Cutrell said. “This gives our students an educational and economic advantage, so, graduates, take advantage of this head start and, remember, you are the beginning of a new generation of high school graduates.”
Of the 13 graduates receiving high school diplomas, nine also earned their associate’s degrees through ENMU-Roswell. In addition, 11 certificates of employability and certificates of occupational training were awarded.
As Cutrell explained to family and friends in the audience, the graduates have accumulated between 900 and 1,000 college credit hours and have saved $85,000 to $95,000 in college tuition, as well as more than $65,000 in college textbooks costs. They also have received $300,000 in scholarships, with nine graduates indicating they now intend to enroll in college for their four-year degrees.
In 2016 and 2017, two other Early College High School students graduated from the school with diplomas and associate’s, having finished degree requirements early, but the students celebrating this week represent the first cohort of students who enrolled at the school’s inception in 2014.
“Our school started with 60-ish guinea pigs,” said valedictorian Yareli Reyes, “and only 13 of us survived the tormenting experiment of Early College. … It was a bit discouraging to watch more than 70 percent of our class leave over these years, but we managed to overlook these obstacles and persevere.”
Reyes also recalled a quotation she learned while taking a college course, Entrepreneurship 101.
“‘You will have people who will not understand,’” she quoted. “‘They might not be negative but they might not be very encouraging either. So it is really important for you to continue to move forward in the face of adversity and in the face of time commitment and in the face of not really understanding but having that feeling and that passion within.’ I think this quote was so memorable to me because joining Early College High School was probably not the most popular thing to do, but it was one of the most rewarding in my life.”
Salutatorian Brooke Elliott said the high school taught her to grow up fast and manage her time wisely.
“We did not give up and we knew that in the end, all the challenging work would be worth it,” she said. “I am so proud of us for not giving up and for pushing ourselves to be the best. We may have started out big and ended up small, but we can say we made it.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.