Early college students’ summers build toward future

Published 1:05 pm Sunday, June 9, 2019


For the Washington Daily News

For many students, summer break is a time for fun and opportunities that could help with their futures.

Some Beaufort County Early College High School students have their summer months planned out with activities that are preparing them for what is to come.

Mariah Waters is a rising super-senior at Early College, meaning she has one more year before she graduates with her high school diploma, as well as associate degrees in arts and science.

Waters has been a waitress at Pizza Hut in Washington since September 2018 and also is taking lessons and volunteering as a farmhand at Calvary Stables in Grimesland.

“The stables is definitely a passion of mine more than any other purpose, but horses and farm animals are used a lot in OT (occupational therapy), so it will be beneficial anyway,” Waters said.

She has been around horses on and off since she was born, but started volunteering again at the stables after her freshman year. She said her volunteer work and her job will contribute to her future occupation.

“Those give me a lot of experience working both independently and in a team. My job allows me to get some money in savings, and the stable is a great form of exercise as well as a way to learn about animal care and health,” Waters said. “Pizza Hut and the stables both teach me problem solving and team work, as well as time management and customer service/social skills.”

After graduation she will apply to University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill to study neuroscience on her way to becoming an occupational therapist.

Jazmin Vega-Gomez also has one more year until she graduates from Early College. Over the summer and continuing through her last year of school, she plans to take part in the Fast-Track Spanish Interpreter program. This program is mostly aimed toward students who already speak Spanish and wish to earn their certificate in interpreting. She is currently taking her first Spanish introduction class, which she said is easy and not hard to juggle with work.

“I believe that earning this certificate opens many doors. Spanish interpreters are needed everywhere, from the hospital to the grocery store,” Vega-Gomez said.

During the school year, Vega-Gomez works as a tutor at Beaufort County Community College’s Learning Enrichment Center; this summer, she’s working at Bath & Body Works, in addition to taking classes. The effort is worth it, she said.

“Taking summer classes has helped me in dealing with stress during the normal fall and spring semesters because I finished courses sooner,” Vega-Gomez said.

Lillian Bridgeman graduated from Early College in May. This summer, Bridgeman will be leaving to start her journey in the U.S. Army. The opportunity came in January when a recruiter called asking if she was interested in joining the Army.

“A light bulb went off that day, and I knew in my heart that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” she said.

AT EASE: Recent Beaufort County Early College High School graduate Lillian Bridgeman studies future soldier packets. Bridgeman enlisted in the U.S. Army in February and heads to basic training mid-July. (Marissa Woolard)

She enlisted and was sworn into the Army in February. Bridgeman will be leaving July 16 to begin nine weeks of basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Her starting rank will be an E3 because she has already completed some college classes at Early College. Next, she’ll go to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for a year and a half to complete her advanced individual training as a biomedical equipment specialist.

Bridgeman credits her relatives and Early College staff and faculty with the support she needed to determine her future. A difficult childhood and not knowing what she wanted to do with her life were two hurdles she would overcome.

“All of that changed when I was adopted by my aunt. She told me I was too smart to let the opportunity of joining BCECHS pass by me. I had no idea what I was going to make of myself, but I knew that I grew up struggling greatly and I wanted to change that,” Bridgeman said.

Bridgeman said the medical field is an ideal opportunity to find the stability she lacked in her early life. She chose the U.S. Army over registered nursing for a reason, she said.

“I didn’t want to have a job like everyone else and live the routine of working all my life and then simply retiring at an old age. That was too basic for me. I wanted more. I wanted to find a job that would allow me to be stable, help others at all times, change people’s lives, allow me to travel and live life to the fullest,” Bridgeman said.

For now, Bridgeman is physically training for two hours a day, six days a week and studying future soldier packets to prepare for basic training.

Whether taking summer classes, deciding what college to go to, working a job, going into the military, Early College students’ lives are rapidly changing — starting with a busy summer.