DUNN - Harnett County Early College (HCEC) has made tremendous progress since opening in Fall 2017. The program has been located at the Dunn Enrichment Center in Dunn.
The public school, which is operated by Harnett County Schools in partnership with Central Carolina Community College, currently is home to approximately 106 students. In Fall 2022, a second location will be opening at the former Benhaven Elementary School in western Harnett County.
The school - where students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost to the student - has been recognized by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction for achieving an outstanding graduation rate of 96.9 percent in the 2020-2021 school year.
The school lists its purpose as: "Harnett County Early College (HCEC) students will be academically challenged to become lifelong scholars, making them competitive in today's global workplace."
Principal Walter McPherson, who has been at HCEC for five years, attributes the school's success to "the small numbers and the commitment for success for our students from our educational partners."
Megan Burgess is the CCCC liaison for the HCEC program. She praises the HCEC faculty and staff members. "HCEC has great teachers and support staff to help the students prepare for the rigorous pathway they have elected to pursue," said Burgess. "Each staff member at HCEC wants to see the students succeed and are always willing to assist students as they navigate through their desired plan."
McPherson believes the school's location in Dunn has been beneficial. "The unique location allows us to be near elementary schools, Head Start, and the Dunn Senior Center, which allows opportunities for our students to volunteer and do community service," he said.
The relationship between HCEC and CCCC has drawn much praise.
"The Harnett County Early College is a product of our storied partnership with Central Carolina Community College," said Dr. Aaron L. Fleming, Superintendent of Harnett County Schools. "Our students have the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and an associate's degree at the same time. Not only does this propel each student closer to their career and college goals, but it also saves them and their families thousands of dollars. We look forward to not only continuing this work but expanding this opportunity so that additional students can participate in the early college experience."
"It is an outstanding partnership with CCCC and they have been very accommodating to our staff and students," said McPherson.
CCCC President Dr. Lisa M. Chapman notes that early colleges have been part of North Carolina's Learn and Earn initiative for over 17 years. "Our early colleges in Chatham, Harnett, and Lee are some of the best examples of CCCC's great partnerships with our three counties' school systems," said Dr. Chapman. "They are intentionally designed to both serve a diverse population of students that reflects the demographics of our communities, and to provide these students with the personalized programming and support that allows them to excel in their learning and academic goals.
"Many of our early college students serve as student leaders during their time at CCCC and continue that leadership and service mindset during their next stop after the college. They are not just our leaders of tomorrow, they are our leaders of today," said Dr. Chapman.
Burgess notes: "From talking with various instructors from CCCC that have taught my early college students, they often express how dedicated the students are and how the students always have a strong desire to succeed. I think this is a direct reflection of Harnett County Schools and the preparation the teachers and staff of Harnett County Schools have done to ensure the students are college ready."
Among the school's graduates is Saeloni McLucas, who completed her Associate in Arts degree with HCEC in December 2019. She went on to graduate from Fayetteville State University in May 2022 with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science with a concentration in environmental policy and politics and a minor in sustainability. She graduated from FSU with the highest academic distinction, Summa Cum Laude. She was also the Political Science student of the year for the 2021-2022 academic year. Her next journey will include attending law school.
Learn more about HCEC by visiting the website, www.harnett.k12.nc.us/hcec, or call the school at 910-814-3470. The school is located at 660 E. Johnson St., Dunn.
Harnett County Early College was recognized by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction for achieving an outstanding graduation rate of 96.9 percent in 2020-2021. Pictured with a certificate recognizing the honor are, left to right: Jermaine White, Harnett County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Student Services; Walter McPherson, Principal at Harnett County Early College, and Dr. Aaron L. Fleming, Harnett County Schools Superintendent.
Harnett County Early College has made tremendous progress since opening in Fall 2017. The program is located at the Dunn Enrichment Center in Dunn.