Classes begin at Camden Early College, NEAAAT
By Reggie Ponder
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Camden Early College and the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies both started the 2018-2019 school year Tuesday with their largest student populations ever.
Camden Early College has 190 students this year in grades 9-13, up from 165 students last year.
“I think word is getting out,” said Principal Amber Davis of the growth of the early college.
About 450 students are enrolled this year at NEAAAT.
This school year NEAAAT has grades 7-12 and will have its first graduating class in the spring of 2019.
“We’re excited about our first graduating class,” said Principal T.J. Worrell.
And the school is still expanding. “We plan to push down to sixth-grade next year,” Worrell said.
Right now grades 6-12 is understood to be the school’s design. But down the road NEAAAT could look at adding other grades if the CEO and board decide to go in that direction, school officials said.
At Camden Early College this year, Mike Reaves, a principal fellow, is working as an administrative intern, as Amber Davis takes on the dual role of principal at both Camden Early College and Camden County High School. Reaves previously was a teacher at the early college and later the school’s career development coordinator.
Camden Early College has a new social studies teacher this year, Pam Djigounian.
NEAAAT has 11 new staff members this year.
This is the first year NEAAT has had someone on staff with the title “principal,” and the new position reflects a strategic decision to free up more of Chief Executive Officer Andrew Harris’ time for attention to longer term strategic planning. Tonya Little, who was chief operating officer this year, is STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education director this year as part of the strategic reorganization.
Worrell came to NEAAAT last month after three years as principal at Elizabeth City Middle School. He said the role of principal at NEAAAT is essentially the same as what a principal does at a more traditional public school, with a few differences related mainly to the challenge of coordinating the use of facilities at Elizabeth City State University with the ECSU administration.
Students are in a dozen different buildings on the ECSU campus this year, which Worrell said can be complicated for students and staff but also helps prepare students for college.
“It’s an opportunity for our students to really get used to college life,” Worrell said.
The instructional coaches, which is what NEAAAT calls its teachers, do a great job of supervising students and discipline problems are minimal, according to Worrell. Having consistently high academic expectations leads to fewer discipline problems as students live up to those high expectations, Worrell said.
The project-based learning at NEAAAT teaches students to work in teams, to accommodate schedules and to do other things that are essential to the workplace, Worrell said. For that reason, more and more schools over time will adopt more of a project-based learning philosophy, he said.
“This type of innovation should push out more to the more traditional public schools,” Worrell said.
Juniors and seniors at NEAAAT are taking a lot of college classes at ECSU and College of The Albemarle, Worrell said. The school has a close working relationship with ECSU and ideally many students will transition into curriculum programs at ECSU, he said.
Lauren Heath, 13, an eighth-grader who is starting her first year at NEAAAT, was drawn to the school because of the wide variety of learning activities and courses that are available.
“They have so many opportunities,” said Heath, a resident of Perquimans County. “When you’re here there’s all these different classes.”
Heath wants to become an orthodontist and would like to finish high school at the N.C. School of Science and Math.
The biggest challenge this year probably will be learning coding for the first time, she said.
“But I think that once I start to do it, it will get easier,” Heath said.
Janarria Wallace, 14, an eighth-grader in her second year at NEAAAT, said she chose the school because she was looking for a challenge.
“I think this is going to be a bigger challenge, so that’s why I wanted to come here,” Wallace said. “It has been a big challenge.”
Wallace said she is studying up on child development and would like to own and operate a day care facility. She said she appreciates the one-on-one support she can get at the school.
At Camden Early College, Trenace Chamblee, 15, a junior, said she likes the way the school is preparing her for college. She wants to be an accountant and said she has noticed that the classes get a bit harder each year and seem to require more concentration and focus.
Emily Eskridge, 16, a junior at Camden Early College, wants to become a veterinarian. This semester she will be taking college courses in American history, public speaking and biology.
“They have a lot to offer here,” said Eskridge, who is interesting in attending either N.C. State University or Auburn University.
Ethen Osborne, 16, a junior at the early college, is taking college classes this semester in chemistry, public speaking, English and computers. He said the biggest challenge will probably be chemistry.