WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- While many of Lexington Two’s newest graduates will be starting their first year of college this fall, Brookland-Cayce High’s Courtney Bingham will be closer to starting her third.
Bingham, a member of Brookland-Cayce’s Class of 2020, became the school’s first student to graduate with a degree from Lexington Two’s Early College program, a partnership with Midlands Technical College that allows students to earn college credits -- at no cost -- during their regular high school days. Bingham graduated cum laude from the Early College program, completing 19 college courses, 62 college credits and an Associate in Science degree. Fellow Bearcat Kelsy White earned a General College Studies Certificate through the Early College program.
Bingham, who will participate in Midlands Tech’s December graduation ceremony, heads to Charleston Southern University this fall, with a goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist.
“I am blessed to have completed about two years of college,” Bingham said of her Early College work. “I chose nursing because I love serving people and helping people in any way I can. Working with anesthesia, you are seeing people in a very vulnerable state, where they are most likely scared and uncertain, and it would be my greatest joy to love and guide people during those trials.”
Early College differs from the AP program, in that students enrolled in AP courses must take the AP exam and receive the test score required by the college they wish to attend for the credit to be awarded. In the Early College certificate and degree programs, college credit is earned without an AP exam. There are roughly 100 Lexington Two high school students currently enrolled in various stages of the Early College program. Victoria Shea Adams-Holden was the first Lexington Two student to graduate from the program.
We talked with Bingham about the challenges and rewards of the program.
Q: What made you decide to take the Early College program?
Bingham: “What made me consider the Early College program began truly with work ethic. As far as AP courses, I would work extremely hard and pull out a great final grade in the course, but not pass the exam. I attribute a lot of this to my learning style -- I don’t test very well. So I felt the Early College opportunity was more suited to my learning style; if I earned the grade, I got the credit, and I am always willing to work hard for what I earn. Additionally, I loved the excitement and the opportunity to be on a college campus.”
Q: What kinds of classes did you take?
Bingham: “Oh goodness, I took so many classes! It exposed me to a lot of things, and I learned which subjects I truly found interesting, and which subjects I felt were a bit of a struggle. For example, I took a criminal justice class my junior year, and absolutely adored it! In the same way, however, I learned which classes weren’t necessarily for me. I’ve always been medically minded, and my favorite classes when I attended Brookland-Cayce as a freshman and sophomore were always the health sciences, so you could see how I would think that I would enjoy all my similar classes at Midlands Technical College. This was far from the truth! Because I decided to earn an Associate in Science degree, I took several health and biology courses, and I certainly didn’t enjoy all of them. Microbiology -- yikes! I am grateful though, because it did show me that the health care field is wide and ever-expanding, so there is something there for everyone who wants to be there.”
Q: How did you balance the requirements of your high school day with your college work?
Bingham: “Balancing life was definitely the biggest obstacle I faced these past two years. I very much want to do everything and be everything to everyone, and while you may be able to get away with that in high school, it’s much harder in the college atmosphere. I was used to going to bed and having all my work finished and ready for the next day. When I started at MTC, there were days I would wake up at 4 to finish a project, and nights I would fall asleep at my computer. The idea is prioritizing -- what can’t wait another second, and what are you trying to get done that really doesn’t need to be done until this Friday? With that comes acceptance, that many nights you will go to sleep knowing everything you wanted to check off isn’t done, and that’s absolutely OK.”
Q: What is the best piece of advice you could give a student considering Early College?
Bingham: “My best piece of advice to any student considering Early College: GO FOR IT! My sweet mama has been a constant source of encouragement and reminded me several times -- “shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” That couldn’t be more true for what it means to be an Early College student, and I’d be lying if I told you that I ended up exactly where I thought I’d be when I received my degree. So while it’s OK to go into this program with goals, understand that this is college. You will succeed and you will fail, you will cry and you will laugh, you will be exalted and humbled. You will change, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Q: Anything else?Bingham: “Getting this degree was no walk in the park by any means. However, it has easily been my favorite years of high school. I learned so much, not just educationally but about life, friendship, what it means to be your own person and blaze your own trail. The experience has been a whirlwind, and I couldn’t have been more blessed to receive this opportunity. I know that when I receive that degree in December that I poured my heart and soul into it, at the end of the day, it is only by the grace of my Heavenly Father I received it. All the glory to Him!”