31 turn tassels at Camden Early College graduation

051919 COA Early College

Camden Early College Principal Amber Davis (right) presents the Service Learning Award to Haley Lynn Shea, who logged 450 service hours, during the early college's graduation ceremony at College of The Albemarle's Performing Arts Center, Saturday.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Camden Early College on Saturday hosted the area’s first high school graduation ceremony of the spring, awarding diplomas to 31 graduates in a ceremony at College of The Albemarle.

Eighteen of those students earned degrees from COA as part of their high school work, and the class has accepted a total of $130,000 in scholarship awards.

One of those students earning college credit from COA while still in high school was class salutatorian Madison Berry.

In an interview before Saturday’s ceremony, Berry said she earned more than 60 college credits.

“It actually wasn’t as scary as most people think it would be going to college while still in high school,” Berry said.

Berry said she plans to study nursing at East Carolina University and would like to be an operating room nurse or a nurse anesthetist. She’s open to working wherever her career takes her.

“But I do love it here,” she added.

Graduate Shainaya McCoy said in an interview prior to the ceremony that she, too, plans to attend ECU. She wants to major in biology, and then study veterinary medicine at N.C. State University.

“My ultimate goal is to be a veterinarian,” McCoy said.

McCoy, who hopes to work in a few different places before possibly returning to the area, said she would be happy working anywhere — from a small animal clinic to a zoo — as long as she gets to work with animals.

“As long as I’m working with animals I’m content,” she said.

But she added, “My dream job would be working at Animal Kingdom at Disney World.”

McCoy received a class service award during Saturday’s ceremony. She said she appreciated the support she received from her teachers and staff at the early college.

“The teachers loved me as if I were their child,” McCoy said.

Principal Amber Davis presented the Principal’s Award to James Wooton, noting it recognizes the student who has had the biggest impact on staff and fellow students and best represents the early college.

Wooton said in an interview prior to the ceremony that he earned an associate of arts degree at COA as part of his high school program. His courses at COA included music appreciation and introduction to jazz. He plans to study music at Elizabeth City State University and become a music teacher.

“That is my primary goal at the moment,” he said.

Wooten said he chose ECSU because it’s “at home and low cost.”

Kathryn Ferguson also plans to attend college closer to home for now. Her plans to take additional courses at COA before deciding where she will pursue her bachelor’s degree. She is interested in a career as a network administrator.

Ferguson said she enjoyed the community she experienced while taking classes at COA. She said the early college was a great experience.

Davis presented the Service Learning Award to Haley Shea, who logged 450 service hours.

Early College teacher Tamara Bush Del-Vecchio, who gave the ceremony’s keynote address, told graduates that little had turned out as planned or expected in her life, yet “where I am right now is where I am supposed to be.”

In speech seasoned with moments of visible emotion, Del-Vechhio told graduates not to try to fit a mold created by someone else. She also told them kindness will go a long way and that they should never approach others with a sense of arrogance or entitlement.

“You need to know that you can pick yourself up and make a new dream if your old one didn’t work out,” she said.

Valedictorian Anna Mattix asked fellow graduates not to spend so much time planning for the future that they forget to focus on the now.

“Be present,” Mattix said.

Berry, in her salutatorian’s speech, told graduates that she was grateful to be part of a school that felt like a family. She encouraged fellow graduates to follow their own path and pursue what is important to them.

Camden Board of Education Chairman Christian Overton urged the graduates to remain true to themselves.

Camden Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell told graduates that the Camden Early College is a big part of what makes the Camden County Schools a special place.

“Find something you’re passionate about and chase it with all your heart,” Ferrell told the graduates.

During her remarks, Davis also recognized Michael Reaves, the administrative intern at the school, for his role in the school’s creation and growth.

“Know your ‘why,’” Reaves said. “Know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”

Pausing a moment, Reaves with strong emotion told the students, “You’re my why.”

Reaves has completed the N.C. Principal Fellow program and is currently applying for positions.