BY KARISSA MILLER
Family and friends cheered as Mary Beth Rhyne walked across a makeshift stage Friday during the Collaborative College of Technology and Leadership drive-thru graduation ceremony.
CCTL is a partnership between Mitchell Community College and Iredell-Statesville Schools that allows students to earn a college degree and high school diploma in five years.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Rhyne said. “I’m really glad that I applied myself and worked hard because it just made it that much sweeter to be able to do this.”
The day was special to her family because her grandfather Virgil Bustle graduated from Mitchell with his GED nearly 30 years ago on this day.
CCTL graduate Jay Marshall said that the early college program is a very different experience from regular high school.
“You are pushed hard to achieve a lot in five years,” Marshall said. “Not having the connection with my teachers in class (during the quarantine) made the rest of the school year hard.”
Marshall said he was impressed with his teachers at CCTL, explaining that they were helpful and encouraging.
After receiving his diploma Friday under sunny skies, he took time to relish his accomplishment. In addition to his academic achievements, he’s learned a lot about himself.
“I learned that if I worked hard enough, I could achieve anything that I wanted,” Marshall said.
Principal Teri Hutchens said that students had a chance to have a mailbox graduation or drive-thru graduation since the traditional ceremony was postponed this year due to crowd regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school wanted to make sure their graduates did not feel forgotten. The traditional ceremony date has not been decided yet, she said.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 41 students were presented their diplomas and a long-stemmed white rose at their unofficial commencement ceremony on Thursday and Friday.
• 95 percent completed their associate degree requirements
• 36 percent earned high school and associate degrees in less than five years
• Approximately 2,700 hours of college credit hours were earned as a class
• Each student who has completed the associate degree has saved the family or him/herself approximately $30,000 in college costs or loans.
• The class of 2020 has received $1 million in grants and scholarships.
• 92 percent plan to continue their education immediately; 5 percent plan to work then continue their education; and 2 percent undecided.