Pioneer Class Graduates: BCEC HS Holds First Graduation (PHOTOS)

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, May 25, 2013

Five years ago, Andrew Barmer was not convinced this new high school setting called the Beaufort County Early College High School was a good idea – at least not for him. That was a lifetime ago. Thursday night the class salutatorian was “super excited.”
“Honestly, it’s hard to process right now,” he explained a half hour before the first ever graduation ceremony for the program. The five-year commitment allows students the opportunity to leave high school with an associate’s degree, employment certifications, college credits and more, all in addition to their high school diplomas.
Thirty-two students accepted their diplomas during the inaugural commencement ceremony, held on the campus of Beaufort County Community College where the program is housed.
Fellow graduate Mia Cota echoed Barmer’s sentiments. “It doesn’t feel real right now.” Cota, who is headed to East Carolina University to continue her studies, tried to explain the comfort she took in studying in a setting like the Early College High School.  “It has meant so much to be a part of a group of people you can trust and rely on that will be there all the way.”
Jay Petty, who teaches science at the Early College High School, has been on the faculty since day one. “You feel like a parent who has seen their kid take on something challenging and be successful,” Petty smiled. “Just like we did as staff, these students stepped into this not knowing, and they’ve been fabulous!”
Emily Pake will begin her first full year as principal for the 2013-2014 school year. She took the helm of the program earlier this year following the departure of Dr. Todd Blumenreich, the school’s original principal. Blumenreich was asked to come back as the commencement speaker, much to the delight of the class.
“It means everything to have Dr. B (as he was known by the students) here tonight,” Barmer explained. When asked what one thing he would always take with him from this experience, he referred back to advice from Blumenreich. “As Dr. B often told us, you have to take care of business, learn hard work, and the rest will come.”
When Blumenreich took the podium, he also went back to that advice. “You have taken care of your business,” a smiling Blumenreich told the graduates. He reminded the group “they were brave enough to take this path.” An emotional “Dr. B” told the audience, “I see stories attached to these lives (referring to the graduates). I see doctors, lawyers, military personnel . . . and maybe even a teacher or two.”
Kasey Tooley, class valedictorian, reminded the group, “academically, we are not normal.” And that  was a complement and an understatement. The school has been designated in the state’s top tier academically four of five years.
“We gave up what we thought was the normal high school experience,” Tooley said. “And the alternative was much greater.”