Lee Early College launches third year
Charmaine Williams (left), giving an American Sign Language 'P' for 'peace', and Shakeel Harris greet ... (more)
Tania Brewington, teacher assistant, welcomes students to Lee Early College at an assembly Wednesday, ... (more)
Math teacher John Howard answers students' questions during the first day of classes Wednesday at ... (more)
Lee Early College Principal Mark West welcomes students to the college at an assembly Wednesday, the ... (more)
SANFORD - Shakeel Harris greeted fellow students with a big smile and, sometimes, a hug as Lee Early College launched its third year Wednesday.
"I'm glad to be back," he said as he mingled with old friends from last year and friends-to-be while the students signed in for their first day of classes at the college, located on Central Carolina Community College's Lee County Campus. "Lee Early College is a great idea. It gives students who couldn't otherwise go to college an opportunity to excel and succeed."
Opportunity and choice - that is what Lee Early College is all about, according to Mark West, the school's new principal.
"I'm all for giving kids choice and opportunity," West said as he directed and assisted the arriving students. "I like the personal contact with students that's possible here. This position is a good match for me."
Lee Early College was established in 2006 through an educational collaboration between Lee County Schools and Central Carolina Community College. It is a public high school, so its demographics reflect Lee County's. As a county high school, students do not pay for tuition or books and it receives standard high school educational funding from the state. It also receives funding from the North Carolina New School Project, which encourages school districts to work with colleges and universities to improve and expand educational opportunities for high school students.
Lee Early College is also much more than a high school. Students must apply and be interviewed before being accepted as freshmen. They are selected on their ability to benefit from the school and thrive in the school-college environment, being taught by both LCS teachers and CCCC instructors. After five years of studies, students graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree.
Wednesday, during the opening assembly, West introduced the teachers. The returning students, who were already familiar with them, applauded and cheered, bringing smiles to the teachers' faces. West called the teachers, "the front line for the best education you can get. They're all about working with you and getting you out the door with an associate degree."
Dr. Lisa Chapman, Central Carolina dean of University Transfer, Health Services, and Developmental Studies, and other college administrators welcomed the students to the campus.
"We know that the larger comprehensive high school design does not meet the needs of every student," Chapman said before the assembly. "LEC is a school of choice for some of those individuals. The smaller class and school size combined with innovative instruction enhances the learning environment. It is certainly a great opportunity for students. Several have already represented the college and Lee County Schools well in public presentations and competitions, and we are very proud of them."
Wednesday, 230 students reported for classes at the unique school. When it opened, it had only freshmen, but is adding one grade at a time as the students advance. Planned maximum enrollment is 400. This year's enrollment includes 80 freshman, 95 sophomores and 55 juniors.
The juniors were the original enrollees back in 2006. Caroline Griffith was one of them. She's never regretted not attending a large high school with the many extracurricular activities it offers.
"I've been with the college since it started and I know we've given up some of the fun things at a big school, but we're having college and that will help us our entire life," she said.
Then she looked around at the students and faculty and added with a smile, "and Lee Early College is like a family."
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