Graduating high school is a momentous occasion. Graduating college eight days prior to graduating high school is all the more significant.
“I was pretty excited, and I felt weird because I got (an associate’s in science) before my high school diploma,” said Travis Glen Ritenour, one of 10 J.P. Knapp Early College High School students who earned their associate’s degrees.
Still, walking across the stage at College of the Albemarle’s May 15 commencement signified that his academic efforts were worthwhile.
“I felt like it was all finally paying off,” Ritenour said.
Challenges have always appealed to the 18-year-old.
While many of his classmates were earning their “Core 44,” general education classes equivalent to about a year in college, Ritenour said he decided to pursue an associate’s degree, which is a two-year college degree.
“I wanted to do the harder one,” he said. “That’s just usually what I do.”
Ritenour will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall to study pre-med, he said. He had always considered becoming a doctor, but earlier this year definitively made up his mind.
“I was watching a lot of medical shows on TV, and I realized how much I liked medicine,” he said.
Ritenour said that good grades generally always came easily to him, and that math was his favorite subject throughout his school years.
“The sciences were also pretty cool,” he said.
Earning his associate’s as a high schooler was not a walk in the park; he found himself needing to study for a math class for the first time in his life while in Calculus 2.
Calculus 2 was “just a hard class,” he said, explaining that with math classes until that one, he’d just learn concepts the first time they were presented.
“I was also really challenged by public speaking,” he said. “That wasn’t quite my thing. And history — also not my thing.”
Still, he never considered not earning his degree, he said.
His first two years in high school, Ritenour said he took all online college classes.
Junior and senior years, he took about half his classes on campus, meaning his classmates were typically older.
“It was a new experience, but a lot of them were pretty nice, so it wasn’t too weird,” he said.
“All of them assumed that we were really smart, which wasn’t really a requirement at J.P. Knapp,” he added.
Ritenour explained that hard work was required at J.P. Knapp, but noted that while some students attended for the academics, some simply liked the smaller environment of the high school and others had friends that attended and motivated them to enroll.
Until he continues his collegiate career in a few months, Ritenour said he is working his first job--a courtesy clerk position at Farm Fresh in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va.
He said the job is “satisfying” because he is never bored and gets to “make people’s day” by loading their groceries for them.
His family moved to Currituck in 2008, he said, because they had relatives in the area, and his father still works in Virginia.
A couple of Ritenour’s J.P. Knapp classmates who also earned their associate’s degrees will join him at UNC-Chapel Hill this fall.
Rick B. Lage, 17, plans to study evolutionary biology.
“It sounded interesting and then I discovered a passion for it,” Lage said.
One of four student board members on the Currituck County Schools Board of Education, Lage said he chose to attend J.P. Knapp because “it sounded like a better opportunity than the regular high school.”
Matthew Robert Krause, 19, similarly said he was glad to attend J.P. Knapp and to have earned his associate’s degree.
Krause will study computer science at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“I’ve always just been good with computers and I’m interested in technology,” Krause said.
Paige Leigh Aguilar, Brian Arthur Kingston, Kennedy Bray Cormier, Alexis Nicole Harrington, Megan Brianna Hoover, Carly Rose McMahan and Connor Clayton McMahan are the other 2014 J.P. Knapp graduates who earned associate’s degrees, according to the graduation program.