DECA Shines During Early College Week

03/22/2012
Contact: Roger Barnes
Phone: 678-891-2693
Fax: 678-891-2966   
Author: Roger Barnes   

Kianna Lyte, 17, didn’t fully understand what she was getting into when she decided to enroll in the DeKalb Early College Academy nearly four years ago.

“When I first came here I thought it was mandatory that you had to complete an associate degree while you completed your high school diploma,” Lyte says. “My mom had already told everyone that’s what I was doing, so I didn’t want to disappoint her.”

This May, Lyte and 21 of her DECA classmates will graduate from both high school and Georgia Perimeter College. Lyte plans to move on to Berry College with enough credits to enroll as a junior with her sights set on a career in veterinary medicine.

As the nation celebrates Early College Week, March 25 to March 31, Georgia Perimeter DECA program coordinator Kathryn Hall reflects on the accomplishments and successes of the program.

Established in 2006 through a joint partnership with DeKalb County School System and Georgia Perimeter, DECA allows college-ready high school students from underrepresented groups to spend their first two years of high school at DECA in Stone Mountain and their upperclassmen years on GPC’s Clarkston Campus. DECA students at GPC earn high school and college credits simultaneously through dual enrollment. Early college students are not required to complete an associate degree but they all graduate from high school with some college credits in the bank.

“For the past three years we have reached our main goal which is to expose students to college early,” Hall says. “Fall of 2008, was the first semester that DECA students were enrolled at GPC. The 2010 graduating class earned 1,822 college credits and the class of 2011 earned 1,209 college credits. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has recognized DECA with the GOLD award in 2009 and the Platinum Award in 2010 and 2011. DECA students regularly achieve well above average compared with other DeKalb high schools on such assessments as the Georgia High School Graduation Test and the End of Course Tests.”

Hall says 72 students have graduated from DECA in the past two years. The inaugural class had 10 students who completed associate degrees with their diplomas. Last year’s class had nine such students. This May’s class will have a record 22 students earning both an associate from GPC along with a diploma from DECA.

“Who wouldn’t want an early start on two years of college?” asks Abraham Gutierrez, 17, who viewed enrolling in DECA as no brainer but also discovered some of the challenges early college presents. “DECA high school prepares you for college-level work, but once you get to GPC you find you have so much freedom and there are so many things to do and so much going on at the Clarkston Campus. I tell younger DECA students to prepare themselves mentally not to get distracted and maintain a focus on their work.”

Gutierrez plans to study business at a four-year institution after he graduates next spring.

“I love the feeling I get when I tell people I go to DECA and then I have to explain to them what early college is,” adds Lyte. “When I tell them I’m graduating with a degree and a diploma, they ask how they can get their child into DECA.”

To learn more about Early College in Georgia, visit www.gaearlycollege.org. To learn more about DECA, visit www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/earlycollege/.

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves approximately 27,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.