Finishing 1st: 5 SGTC students finish college before high school

Published 1:36 pm Saturday, July 28, 2018

AMERICUS — In the moments leading up to South Georgia Technical College’s (SGTC) spring graduation ceremony, the nearly 200 graduates lined up in the back hallway of James S. Peters Gymnasium. Walking through, the graduates look the same for the most part, wearing the traditional black cap and gown with a black 2018 tassel.
The only thing differentiating students from one another are the different color cords and stoles draped over some of the graduates’ necks. The stoles or cords represent an accomplishment or affiliation during the student’s time at SGTC — 12 students wear gold stoles (presidential honor graduates), 23 students wear white stoles (honor graduates), 12 more students wear white and purple cords (National Technical Honor Society), and countless others wear different color cords to represent their club or organization.
But in the mix of all the colors, five students stand out from the others. They wear one of the most coveted colors of cords — turquoise — which represents that these students are receiving their degree or diploma before they have even graduated from high school. These five students, Brandon Cochran, Erica Monts, Jerome Smith, Daimian Jackson and Joshua Suggs, are dual enrollment students.
“To be honest, it all seemed to happen really fast,” Monts said. “One minute I’m sitting in 10th grade taking my first college class and the next minute, I’m walking across the stage with my associate’s degree as well as a diploma before I graduated from high school.”
Monts, an Americus Sumter County High School graduate, said that she originally chose to enroll in SGTC through the dual enrollment program because not many of the other students were doing it.
“It was something different from what the other students my age were doing. I can be a little competitive at times,” she joked. “But over the years, I realized that I really liked doing it and decided to just keep going and get a head start on my college and future career.”
After receiving her high school diploma on May 18, a week and half after she received her associate’s degree in criminal justice technology, she began preparing to attend South Georgia State College in the fall. She will pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and plans to minor in pre-law.
During the graduation ceremony, two of the dual enrollment graduates, Brandon Cochran who received his criminal justice degree, and Daimian Jackson who received his barbering diploma, were awarded their degrees from their parent.
Jackson accepted his diploma from his father and SGTC barbering instructor Xavier Jackson while Cochran accepted his degree from his mother and SGTC career advisor Deo Cochran.
“I was elated about the opportunity to present my son with his associate degree; this only happens once in a lifetime,” Deo Cochran said. “He was so happy and thrilled to receive a college degree before his high school diploma.”
Jerome Smith of Americus Sumter High School received his barbering diploma and Joshua Suggs of Crisp County High School received his welding diploma as well.
“This is the reason we do what we do, helping our dual enrollment students jump-start their careers while in high school,” high school coordinator Vickie Austin said about her dual enrollment students. “We are so proud of all of our 462 dual enrollment students, but especially proud of these five students who have gone the extra mile to earn their diploma or degree while obtaining their high school diploma. Hopefully other high school students will take notice and realize that they can do this too.”
The dual enrollment program allows high school students to take academic degree-level core courses that will transfer to any TCSG or USG college or university, occupational courses, and diploma-level core courses. Some students may choose to enroll fully into a degree, diploma or technical certificate of credit program, or they may choose to just take a few courses. All college coursework taken through dual enrollment will be fully covered through state of Georgia funding, and students will not be required to pay out of pocket for tuition, college fees, or textbooks.
After accomplishing this uncommon feat, Monts hopes to encourage others to take the same path she did through dual enrollment.
“I can say that becoming a dual enrollment student is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I mean, I was able to attend college for free while I was still in high school,” she said. “As long as someone puts their heart, mind and hard work into something, they can accomplish anything.”
For more information about the dual enrollment program at SGTC, contact Vickie Austin at (229) 931-2866 or