YEC graduates 50, with 30 earning associate degrees


By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Youngstown Early College High School Class of 2016 is a class of firsts.

It’s the first class with 60 percent – or 30 students – earning an associate degree upon graduation.

It’s the first class whose members requested to pray before the start of Friday evening commencement in Ford Recital Hall in the DeYor Performing Arts Center in Powers Auditorium. And it’s the inaugural class for the YSTAR program.

It’s a Youngstown Foundation program that provides last-dollar scholarships to city school students who attend Youngstown State University or Eastern Gateway Community College.

“This is a brilliant class,” Monica Jones, YEC principal, told the audience. “This is a dynamic class, and this is a class of firsts.”

YEC students take the bulk of their high-school courses during their freshmen and sophomore years. For the junior and senior years, they’re on the campus of either YSU or EGCC and can earn enough college credit to secure an associate of arts degree by high school graduation.

Ilen Nayit Velazquez Rivera, class valedictorian, for example, had 63 college credits as of Friday.

She plans to attend YSU next year to study social work.

Rivera attributed her success to “a lot of studying.”

She had to find a balance between class work and the other aspects of her life. That meant that sometimes she had to put her studies ahead of her social life.

Two graduates, Jordan Rawl and Shyann Green, also earned credit toward their bachelor’s degrees.

Rawl earned 88 college credits while at YEC. Rawl, who led his classmates in a prayer before the start of Friday’s ceremony, plans to attend the University of Toledo next year and double-major in religious studies and chemistry. He’ll be part of the school’s premed program.

He’s excited about the future, but he’ll miss some things, too,

“It’s bittersweet for me,” he said.

Green earned 83 college credits at YEC. She plans to attend YSU next year and study anthropology. With plans to earn a doctorate, she figures YEC will be her first of several graduations.

Jones told the audience that Friday’s was the ninth YEC commencement. The school boasts a 100 percent graduation rate, and for the ninth year, the Ohio Department of Education has named it a School of Promise. For the fourth year, ODE designated it a High Performing School. Both ODE designations are based on high achievement among students, including those who are economically disadvantaged.

The school also again earned a place in the U.S. News and World Report Best High Schools in the U.S. list.

Alison J. Harmon, president and senior consultant at J&H Counsultants, was the keynote speaker. She urged the graduates to continue to work hard and pursue their dreams.

“No matter what you do or how long you do it, do your best,” Harmon said.

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