Class of 2022: Early College High School

"Ahead of the Curve": Early College Graduates Earn High School Diplomas and College Degrees
Posted on 05/16/2022
early college student in cap and gown at nashville state event

Victoria Roper and her twin sister, Alissa, wanted to get ahead academically. So their mother suggested they try Early College High School, the MNPS school where students can earn both their high school diploma and an associate’s degree from Nashville State Community College in four years. 

early college graduates at Nashville State event

On Wednesday night, May 18, the Roper twins and 32 other students will cross the stage as the first graduating class of Early College, knowing they’ve conquered great challenges and are ready for more.

“We’re definitely ahead of the curve,” Victoria said after she and Alissa posed for graduation photos in the Early College facility on Nashville State’s campus last week. “When we get to MTSU, we’ll be juniors. And going to school here has helped me figure out that I want to be a therapist.”

Early College students spend their first two years in MNPS high school classes before transitioning to college courses full time at the start of their junior year. It can be quite an adjustment. But shifting from in-person to virtual learning at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, near the end of their sophomore year, was even more difficult, said Noah Hipps, who will head to Parris Island, S.C., to join the United States Marine Corps after graduation.

Noah said the rewards were worth every bit of the struggle. He and his classmates have “an extra edge” now.

“The benefits will go further than you can imagine,” he said, summing up how he would advise a younger student considering enrolling in Early College.

Paul Elliott Jr., who plans to enter the workforce after he graduates, said he didn’t think a more traditional high school would be a good fit for him. He knows he made the right choice.

“The gas price is worth the good teachers,” Paul said.

Along with the 34 students earning both a diploma and a Nashville State degree this week, another 14 are within six to nine credit hours of completing their degrees, said Roderick Manuel, Early College’s principal.


Four-year college destinations for the 48 students include Michigan State, Belmont, Tennessee State, UT-Chattanooga, Lipscomb, Howard, Indiana-Bloomington, Middle Tennessee State, Austin Peay, UT-Knoxville, Colorado-Boulder, Sewanee, Memphis and more.

early college graduate at Nashville State graduation

“This is a thrilling moment for all of us to celebrate the diversity and the range of wonderful young people ready to go on to college or to take their place in the world,” Manuel said. “We are fortunate in that Early College High School students are graduating at a time when the world is full of opportunity and challenge. These driven young scholars started a journey of full college courses, completely virtually, during the fall of 2020 as juniors in high school. 

“As we know, 2020 brought about unprecedented challenges that none of us could foresee. Yet these high school students persevered. They demonstrated resilience and dedication. It is no doubt that the future is bright if these young people are leading the way.”

Kirolous Kamel, who plans to study computer science at MTSU, said he feels he’s been “exposed to the real world at a younger age.”

“This experience is by far the best thing I’ve had,” he said.

Ernesto Hernandez, who is heading to Lipscomb, said Early College tested him at times, but he urged students to take on the challenge.

“Keep your head up,” Ernesto said. “You will struggle, and there will be ups and downs, but if you push through, you’ll make it to the end.”

And Avion Johnson, who will continue his education at Tennessee State, echoed Alissa Roper and several other students when he talked about the supportive community the Class of 2022 has been. Knowing everyone was going through the same thing helped everyone persevere.

"It was not an easy transition at all," Alissa said. "But it's definitely a community."

Avion said younger students who are looking at Early College should take the leap.

“Your future self,” he said, “will thank you.”

Graduation Livestream 

The Early College High School graduation will be livestreamed on the Metro Schools Facebook page. Tune in at 6 p.m. Wednesday May 18.

The images in this story are from the May 10 Nashville State Community College graduation ceremony, where 34 members of the Early College High School Class of 2022 earned an associate degree.

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