Commencement Spotlights Early College Initiatives

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Author: Roger Barnes

11 Graduate From College Before High School

High schools students who have earned their associate degrees while completing their high school diplomas were highlighted during Georgia Perimeter College’s 2010 Spring Commencement, held May 14 on the Clarkston Campus. Of the 1,030 GPC graduates who marched that day, 11 started college early and earned a GPC degree although they had yet to receive their diplomas from high school.

Brooke Shannon has known for years she wanted to become a doctor, GPC President Dr. Anthony S. Tricoli told the graduates. To jump start her college education, Shannon spent the last two years as a full-time Dual Enrollment student at GPC’s Newton Campus. At commencement, 18-year-old Shannon received her associate degree, and on May 28 will receive her diploma from Social Circle High School. Shannon will attend the University of Georgia as a junior enrolled in its pre-medical program.

Tricoli also highlighted 10 students who were part of the DeKalb Early College Academy. DECA, a collaboration between GPC and the DeKalb County School System, brings high school students to GPC’s Clarkston Campus for college and high school credit. DECA’s first class, called the Legacy Class, graduates this month with 46 students receiving their high school diplomas.

“Now here’s the really incredible news,” Tricoli said. “Ten of those students are also graduating from GPC this afternoon. How about that?”

DECA students Alyssa Combs, Mohamed Kande, Karlecia Lucas, Ralph McIntyre, Jennifer Milton, Nsamba Mutanda, Quinton Pinkston, Samrawit Sileshialemu, Andreya Thomas and Shian Williams are all qualified as college juniors.

“If I went to a regular high school, I think I would also have been successful,” said Williams, a 17 year old who leaves GPC with a 3.8 GPA. “But I believe DECA and GPC have allowed me to grow into myself.”

“We’re just like everybody else,” Combs adds. “We take the same classes and do the same work.”
Combs plans to continue her education at Georgia Tech and become an environmental lawyer.

Seventeen-year-old Milton will enter Valdosta State later this year, as a junior. She’ll join her older brother, James, who is already at that college. James will be a sophomore.

“At first he (James) said ‘It’s not fair’ and he was a little upset,” adds Dorcas Milton mother of the two. “But now he’s very proud of Jennifer.”

During commencement, Tricoli also highlighted outstanding traditional and non-traditional students, like Hannah Carey and Matt Mikkelsen.

Carey, a theater major, turned down a scholarship at Agnes Scott and chose GPC because, even with the scholarship, GPC was more affordable.

“She had the opportunity to stage-manage, to build sets, to paint as a scenic artist and perform on stage,” Tricoli said. Carey leaves GPC with a 4.0 GPA, Tricoli said.

Mikkelsen was Georgia Perimeter College’s first student to work as an intern for Atlanta’s Consulate General Office in Japan. That program was a first for any two-year college in Georgia. The project not only gave Mikkelsen insight into international relations but allowed him to share his experience back with his classmates, he said.

“These are just a few examples of students being recognized today,” Tricoli said. “There are more than 1,000 more. You started the process of carving out your own future, shaping what you will become. We are all inspired by what we see before us today.”

The keynote speaker, Dr. George R. Boggs, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, reminded the graduates that community colleges transform lives.

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit