Seniors earn high school diploma and associate’s degree

Manomay MalathipMore than 100 DeKalb County School District (DCSD) seniors graduated this year with not just a high school diploma, but a significant step forward in achieving future goals: an associate’s degree.

In partnership with Herzing University, DeVry University, Georgia Piedmont Technical College, and Georgia State University, 101 graduating seniors from Arabia Mountain, Chamblee Charter, Clarkston, DeKalb Early College Academy, Druid Hills, McNair, and Stone Mountain high schools obtained associate’s degrees during the 2018-19 school year.

Through hard work, dedication, and a commitment to completing a rigorous course load, the students earned degrees in such disciplines as Business Management, Network Systems Administration, Biology, and General Studies.

“It’s an honor and a pleasure to witness what I am tonight, these young people are our future,” said Superintendent/CEO Dr. R. Stephen Green at the official ceremony on May 22. “These are the future board members, the future CEOs, teachers, lawyers, etc. Their future is bright.”

Dr. Green highlighted how DCSD’s mission is to provide early access to future-minded programs for students. One of the district’s top priorities, he said, is continuing to provide opportunities for high achievement no matter the circumstance.

Onward Academy 2019

Photo: Vanecia Thompson

“We are pushing and pulling students who may not think they can seek out and participate in these opportunities,” said Dr. Green. “Maybe some obstacle has come into their lives and they think they can’t. We’re here to say, ‘Yes, you can.’ We’re here to say, ‘Here’s a way.’ And it comes to fruition in moments such as these.”

Thirty-two of the 101 graduates earned their associate’s degree through DCSD’s Onward Academy program. Onward Academy places college professors on eight high school campuses, bringing college coursework to students throughout the district.

Eligible students are selected their sophomore year and complete college courses their junior and senior year.

“We are excited and proud to honor these 100 plus students for earning their associate’s degree and high school diploma. Many of them have already graduated from college,” said Executive Director of Student Advancement, Manomay Malathip. “Without great partners, we would not be able to succeed and we would not be able to provide opportunities like this to our students.”

According to Malathip, Onward Academy eliminates barriers typically related to transportation, cost, and support. The program helps students adjust to the college experience (e.g. classes, coursework, instruction, being on a college campus) before the full leap is made.

The majority of students graduating with associate’s degrees were enrolled in DCSD’s DeKalb Early College Academy (DECA), located at 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd. All students enrolled at DECA take traditional high school classes during their freshman and sophomore years, and dedicate the remainder to completing college courses at Georgia State University.

Ninety-five percent of DECA’s graduating Class of 2019 received associate’s degrees in General Studies, giving them a substantial head start. The school consistently ranks among the top five schools in Georgia and is widely considered the best early college high school in the state.

Onward Academy medals

Photo: Vanecia Thompson

Students that participate in these types of programs nationwide are more likely to not just attend college but finish with a four-year degree. Schedules built through both programs help develop student confidence and highlight ability while also appearing attractive to higher education institutions.

DeKalb County Board of Education member Allyson Gervertz has participated in student panels through both DECA and Onward Academy. She walked away stunned and impressed with each student’s ability to handle such demanding

“I think things will actually get easier for them when they go to college next year!” said Gervertz. “They work so hard. The balance of completing all requirements for high school and an associate’s degree, not to mention being involved in high school activities, I’m amazed. They have a load that much more demanding than anyone else’s their age.”

Every day, the schools of the DeKalb County School District are bursting with activities that support college and career readiness. We’ll share that news in TRUST in the Schoolhouse. Got an idea? Please share it here