High school graduation is a time of celebration in young people’s lives. It shows they are one step closer to adulthood and comes with the decision of whether to continue their education or join the work force. One Tift County High School senior is already way ahead in this milestone moment. Mackenzie O’Berry will not only receive her high school diploma on Saturday, but she will also graduate with an Associates in Criminal Justice from Southern Regional Technical College the same time.
During the summer after her sophomore year of high school, O’Berry began the Dual Enrollment Program which allowed her to take classes at TCHS along with classes at Southern Regional. She was also able to earn her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification.
“It was tough,” she said. “But I would remind myself that it would put me ahead. It opens a lot of doors, being 18 and already having an associate’s degree. I know a lot of people don’t get that until they’re 20.”
After finishing at two schools, O’Berry doesn’t know exactly where life would take her, but she knows where to start. She plans on finishing her bachelor’s degree at Valdosta State University and looks forward to what life on her own will look like.
“I know people change in college, and I’m excited to see that change in myself but I know I will always keep my school first, so I can pursue my dreams,” she said.
Criminal Justice Instructor Rusty Day knows O’Berry’s work ethic will serve her well.
“She is a very diligent worker,” he said. “She has pushed herself through this program and was always willing to work on any project we gave her.”
“The Dual Enrollment Program is such a helpful resource for many of our students,” said Mickey Weldon, Chief Academic Officer at Tift County Schools. “It allows our students to earn both high school and college credit simultaneously while also getting a jump on choosing a career field. Students are able to participate in the program without having to pay college tuition or use the HOPE Scholarship, which is a huge benefit for them and their families.”
O’Berry is looking forward to a summer where she has no schedule to keep for the first time in her life.
“I am going to relax, and I mean it,” she said. “I want to have no responsibilities for just a little while-at least until school starts again.”