Taylor Williams is frantically searching for the perfect senior prom dress. She also still has not purchased her senior farewell outfit or white graduation dress. But on June 1, the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute senior knows she is set to wear a black mortarcap and gown while receiving her associate’s degree from Baltimore City Community College.
Williams is one of a handful of local students pursuing both her high school diploma and an associate degree simultaneously, slated to graduate from high school a day later in June 2.
During his first term, President Obama embraced a system to create a pipeline for students to move easily from high school to four-year institutions through community colleges. Under this approach, students will spend less for a four-year degree.
“In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience,” said Obama in a statement. “We will not fill those jobs- or keep those jobs on our shores- without the training offered by community colleges.”
Williams did a full eight-hour school day in Poly’s Ingenuity Project, a demanding college preparatory program geared towards academic excellence in math, science and engineering. She then headed to BCCC where she has been enrolled in as few one and as many as four courses per semester to ensure she would graduate in four years. Sometimes she did not get home until 10 p.m.
“Taylor does a lot inside and outside of her school environment and she still maintains a decent GPA that will get her into any college in the nation,” said Jacqueline Williams, principal at Poly. “There are a few students who pursue their associate degree while in high school, but you have to have the stamina. If you don’t have it, you won’t be as successful as Taylor has been.”
Students in Poly’s Ingenuity Project must maintain a B-average to remain in the program.
Upon transferring to Poly from Grace Brethren Christian School mid-way through her freshman year, Williams did not have the biology course she needed to ensure she graduated on time. Her parents enrolled her at BCCC initially to catch up. Then they found out about BCCC’s Early Enrollment Program, a program allowing high school students to earn college credit before receiving a diploma.
Williams’ father accompanied her during her first college-level course at BCCC to ensure she has support.
“I attended the first class with her since she was so young and in an adult setting,” said Tommy Williams, Taylor Willams’ father who consistently pushes his daughter to excel. “We live in a society where you have to make sure your child is academically ready and the only way to see that is to compete with others.”
At Poly, Williams participated in a slew of extra-curricular activities. She ran both indoor and outdoor track, was a member of the JROTC program, and competed in the Baltimore’s NAACP ACT-SO Program and the NASA Science, Technology, Engineering and Research Program.
While she has been accepted into the freshman classes of North Carolina A&T University and the University of Maryland College Park, she is, at heart, a teenager who indulges in hanging out with friends, spending evenings at a Sip & Bite restaurant or just driving around the city, with her younger sister in tow.
Williams never shies away from a competition. A self-proclaimed diva, Williams also competed in the Miss Maryland Teen Pageant in 2009.
“I’m a diva at its best. You definitely have to have a lot of confidence to go up there and try out,” said Williams of the pageant. “I just wanted to try it out and see what it took.”