2014 will mark Whale Branch Early College High School's first four-year graduates

abredeson@islandpacket.comAugust 11, 2013 

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Graduates Shaquanda Jefferson, left, and Mercedes Smalls hug after the commencement ceremony for the Whale Branch Early College High School graduating class of 2013.

FILE — Staff photo Buy Photo

Rietta Salters is part of a unique group of students at Whale Branch Early College High School. She and her classmates are the first senior class to have spent all four years at the school, which opened its doors in 2010.

Whale Branch principal Priscilla Drake said this year's senior class is not only the first group that has completed all four years at the school. It is also the largest group graduating with associate degrees from the Technical College of the Lowcountry. She said two students graduated with double degrees last year and there will be even more this year.

Whale Branch partners with TCL to give students a chance to take college courses in high school. If they work hard enough, they can earn associate degrees or college certificates before they graduate from high school.

Salters, 17, will graduate with two associate's degrees -- one in science and one in arts -- at the end of this school year. That will cut about two years off her college experience and save a lot of tuition money, too.

She wants to go to Coastal Carolina University and join the U.S. Navy before becoming a radiologist assistant.

Salters said she started the associate program her sophomore year. She said it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get this far.

"High school is not a game," she said. "You have to take it serious because education can take you far in life. You can play sports all you want, but education is what makes you who you are in your life, and without it there's not much you can succeed in doing."

Drake said the new senior class has done very well over the past four years. There are 111 seniors this year.

"I've enjoyed working with them throughout their four years," she said.

Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.

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