When students head back to Harlem High School this week, Erika Blair won't be with them.
Instead, Erika will forgo her junior and senior years at Harlem to start taking classes this fall at the University of West Georgia under the school's rigorous Advanced Academy.
Erika, the 15-year-old daughter of Eric and Catherine Blair of Grovetown, is a year ahead of her classmates.
"She has already skipped a grade, so she is really young to be entering this college program," said Elise Crow, a teacher in Harlem High School's English Department. "She is very excited about it."
The idea to become a dual-enrolled student started forming when she participated in the Duke Talent Identification Program.
"In that program, seventh-graders were allowed to take the SAT to see how they would do," Erika said. "They sent us a book afterwards about advanced programs across the country."
Erika said there are only nine such residential programs in the country, including the one at the University of West Georgia.
"I started the application to the Advanced Academy last fall," said Erika, who had to secure teacher and counselor recommendations and participate in an interview about her interest in the program.
The opening of a new high school on Chamblin Road helped Erika decide to leave Harlem High early.
"If it weren't for the fact that the new Grovetown High School was opening, I'd be staying," she said, explaining that her student body will be split between the two schools.
"I would be staying in Harlem and be with the friends that I've been with since elementary school. I wrestled with myself about that."
At the Advanced Academy, Erika will take courses that will complete her requirements for a high school diploma. She also will get a leg up on her peers by gaining college credit for those courses.
Though some parents are reluctant to let their 15-year-olds head off to college, the Blairs have been supportive of their daughter's decision.
"They really think it's a great opportunity and, since I got accepted, they think I should go," Erika said.
Crow says the Advanced Academy might push Erika to even greater intellectual heights.
"As an educator," the English Department teacher said, "I know that acceleration through a program like Advanced Academy is not about pushing kids through; instead, it is about not holding kids back.
"Students like Erika, who are very motivated and have such a high academic ability, can be left feeling unchallenged from high school courses."
Back to School
Capture a photo of your child's first day of school and send a .jpg image to email@example.com, or bring or mail a print to The News-Times office in the Publix shopping center at 4272 Washington Road, Ste. 3B, Evans, GA 30809.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.