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On May 13th, when hundreds of Fayetteville State University students walk across the stage at the sesquicentennial (150th) commencement to accept their degree, Mikayla Raines will be one of them, accepting her Bachelor of Science degree. Mikayla, however is not your typical college graduate. Mikayla was a student of the Cumberland International Early College High School at FSU and is graduating at the age of 18, after just one year of being a full-time college student.
Fayetteville State hosts Cumberland International Early College High School as well as Cross Creek Early College High School on campus. Both schools act as traditional high schools while also introducing college classes and curriculum to students. Students who attend Cumberland International Early College or Cross Creek Early College start taking college courses on FSU's campus by their sophomore year in high school.
"Usually around sophomore year is when we get immersed into college classes," Mikayla said. "We took one class a semester and by junior year I became a full time high school and full time college student."
Mikayla will tell you that hard work, persistence, and a lot of help and encouragement from her mom played a big part in her excelling in the unique program. Her mom, April Raines who works with incoming freshman at Fayetteville State as an Academic Support Specialist has worked in higher education for 15 years. When she heard about the Early Colleges on FSU's campus, she thought Mikayla would be a good fit.
"I knew Cross Creek Early College had been on the campus. Mikayla has always been in private schools and had been interested in Spanish. We talked about Cross Creek Early College but I knew that a new International Early College was coming ... Cumberland County International Early College. We talked about it and at first she wasn't sure she wanted to do it. She had been in private school her whole life but we talked about transitioning her in her ninth grade year. She applied and was accepted, and that was how it came to be," April said.
Students of the Cumberland International Early College must study a language and can choose between Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or Arabic. Mikayla chose to study Spanish and is now graduating from FSU with a minor in Spanish.
Most students who attend one of the early college programs have enough college credits when they graduate from high school that they are able to complete their college degree within two years. Mikayla was even more accelerated than that with completing her degree in one year. Last semester she took 20 credits.
Mikayla was able to maintain a balance between school work and extracurricular activities while at the Early College and also while a full-time student at FSU, all while excelling in her academics, earning a cumulative GPA of 3.7. In high school, Mikayla founded Global Girls, a program that helps with girls' confidence and self esteem. She was also part of the honor society and the Spanish national honor society. She was part of the Student Government Association her freshman year as well. While a full-time college student, she has been a member of the Executive Board of Bronco Women as the Community Outreach Liaison and is also a member of Psi Chi, the international psychology honor society. Mikayla also balanced two jobs -- working as a peer academic leader and working at the writing center. As a freshman, she is also being inducted into the Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society.
Mikayla and April, who works with incoming freshman to help them adjust to university, said that they would both recommend the early college program to other parents and students, but that it must be a good fit. They both said that the students must be willing to work hard and that the parents must be willing to help their child. They agreed that it is definitely not for every student.
"Parents need to make sure that their student is the right fit. Time management is very important and students must be able to manage high school, social life, and of course academics because they have to do it all," April said. "Don't just say, 'This is a good opportunity to gain college credits and graduate early.' It would definitely be a good fit for a student that is driven and wants to put in the work."
Mikayla is also graduating from college debt free. FSU, in collaboration with Cumberland County Schools pays for the college courses while students are enrolled in the Early Colleges. For Mikayla's year as a full-time student at FSU, she applied for a debt free scholarship which paid for her room and board and for tuition.
"It is amazing," Mikayla said. "I just want to be able to shed some light on the program and I want to be an example for other people in the Early College that want or need to graduate in a certain period."
Mikayla is graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. She plans to continue her education and will attend graduate school to study psychology following graduation. She plans to be an active member of the FSU Alumni Association and hopes to run for Miss Alumni and possibly be the youngest ever.