Early College Program

CEC Grads - Spring 2017 (2)


When I tell people I graduated from the early college program, nine times out of ten, they have no idea what I am talking about. Though Craven Early College has now been in existence for 10 years, there’s still a lot that people don’t know about CEC.  When I began my journey at Craven Early College, I was amidst my own personal turmoil. The traditional schools were not a good fit for me. In a world where I had previously mastered being invisible, I became a force to be reckoned with. I found my voice among people who believed in me. I learned how to reason through critical thinking and analyzed the world through a whole new perspective. I developed passion for what was right, and I can’t ever thank my CEC family enough for changing me into a woman I can be proud of. I’m graduating with two Associate’s degrees, 500+ hours of volunteer work, and a time-consuming job, all while maintaining a high GPA. The early college program was by far the best thing that has happened to me in my life thus far, and I only hope it continues to change kids’ lives.

During my time at CEC, I earned two years of transferrable college credit through CEC’s partnership with Craven Community College.  That means that when I enter the University of North Carolina at Asheville as a freshman this fall, I will take with me enough college credits to classify me (academically) as a JUNIOR!  It took a lot of hard work to earn those credits and to maintain high grades.  Students are not guaranteed an Associate’s degree just by being enrolled at Craven Early College — the credits required for a high school diploma have to be earned first, and then students have the opportunity to work toward their Associate degree.  The focus and discipline that are required in order to earn honors high school credits and college credits help students to learn time management, work ethic, and sacrifice — qualities that my teachers and instructors help to instill in me as I prepared for life in “the real world.”

The teachers and instructors were an ultimate highlight of my time at CEC. They taught us to fight for what we believe in and that “activist” isn’t a bad word. We were taught that being passionate, especially as a woman, does not make one crazy. Activism makes you a better human — because you see all the evils in the world and consciously choose to try to make it more beautiful. We were taught to be scholars, not students, and that gave us the ability to crave knowledge and understanding of the universe. We were taught to question the unknown, question what is fundamentally wrong, and challenge our core beliefs in order to make them stronger.

Our instructors strived to enlighten us at such a young age, something that most people don’t find their whole lives. I can truly say that as a high school student, ignorance was washed from my eyes, and I had the ability to see the world untainted. I was made to realize all of my privilege, and that realization helped me to discover my passions. My teachers helped to mold me into someone who could shift the world, someone who had power. I was given the ability to feel like I could move time and space, to turn the whole world upside down, in order to better the life of just one person. I was given confidence. It was a privilege to have been taught by the teachers at CEC and instructors at CCC, and I only hope they continue to change kids’ lives like they did mine.


Mackenzie Patak, Class of 2017


**In the attached photo of the CEC Class of 2017, Mackenzie is pictured on the front row, second from the left.


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