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For 13 Spartanburg High School students, the transition from high school to college won’t be difficult.
The first group to complete Viking Early College will soon graduate from both the high school and Spartanburg Community College. Viking Early College, established in 2013, allows students to earn an associate degree and a high school diploma at the same time.
“We thought, ‘What can we do to demonstrate that given a chance and opportunities, these students that may drop out can excel in a college atmosphere,’” said SCC President Henry Giles.
The program was designed to target male students who are driven and smart, but need extra encouragement to attend college.
Inside the historic Evans Building, the first home of Spartanburg High, the group of students completed work for high school and college courses.
“I knew I was going to work my hardest,” said Angel Martinez, one of the students.
Martinez plans to study communications at the College of Charleston later this year. He said the program has him more ready for college than he ever expected to be.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “I’ve already experienced all-nighters for college tests. I know I have the work ethic.”
There’s no cost to attend Viking Early College, and transportation is provided for students who need it.
Tuesday evening, a small celebration was held for the students. It was one of the last times for students to talk with their college professors before SCC’s graduation ceremony next week.
Tyresse Sawyer plans to study software engineering at the University of South Carolina in the fall.
Sawyer said managing years of work for both high school and college was hectic, but has made him a better student and person.
“At first, it seemed like a daunting experience, being separated and brought to a different campus,” he said. “But in the end, it was definitely worth it.”
Giles said 11 of the 13 students will earn their associate degree in May, while the other two will earn theirs before the next academic year starts in August.
Since the program started, the students have gotten a taste of college life and academics and have gotten to meet with local leaders like Bill Barnet and George Dean Johnson Jr.
“Knowing some of the opportunities they’ve had, it’s amazing to have seen them grow,” Giles said.
Ruben Ramirez plans to study technical theater at the University of South Carolina Upstate before spending two years on a church mission trip.
Ramirez knew the experience wouldn’t be easy, but was ready for the challenge.
“I know what it takes now. In college, you have nobody backing you up, you have to do it yourself,” he said. “It was a good challenge.”