Jayla Stephens said enrolling at the Columbus Career and College Academy took some convincing from her parents. "I really didn't think I was going to come here," she said. Instead she thought she was going to have a typical high school experience. But it didn't take her long to realize this was a chance to get ahead of the game.
"I'm the first in my family to do something like this and I think that made me really happy," said the 14-year-old.
In two weeks, she and 81 other students will make-up the first freshman class at the Fair Bluff 'early college.' The recently-renovated campus received a Golden Leaf Grant and gives students a chance to earn their diploma while earning college credits.
Jayla has decided to study nursing. And although it's not one of the pathways offered at the school, she says she will be able to earn an associates degree within four-years. An opportunity her parents say will prepare her for the future.
"It's a chance to show her what to expect. What they do. What it's all about," said her mother, Jovanna Long, about the school's internship opportunities.
The academy's principal, Laura Davis, says students like Jayla can advance quickly.
"It allows the students to be on the college campus taking college classes simultaneously with their high school classes."
Another student says they may be young but he feels there is no time to waste.
"We'd be able to get out on the workforce faster and make a little bit more money."