Arriving early to the party
Kayla Hawkins will graduate Saturday at the top of a senior class a year older than her.
In August, the Northern Vance High School student skipped 11th grade after gaining 21 credit hours as a freshman and sophomore.
Vance County Schools requires students to accumulate 20 credits to become a senior and 28 to graduate. Hawkins, 17, will graduate with 30.
She said it took the whole summer after her sophomore year to decide what she wanted to do.
“When I got here it wasn’t my intention to graduate early,” Hawkins said. “People think I had this handed to me. If my parents and teachers didn’t push me, I wouldn’t be here.”
Hawkins said she followed the advice of an assistant principal by taking online classes her freshman year.
She took them throughout her summers, as well, and became heavily involved on campus.
Hawkins said her weeks were busy with classes, then leading the clarinet section of the school marching and concert bands, attending biology club meetings, traveling to Vance-Granville Community College for night classes and finishing homework.
“I used to go home and watch TV and sleep,” she said. “I didn’t have time for that anymore. I tell people that I have the same choices as them that I have to make in life. I am not better than you, but I took it more seriously.”
Guidance counselor Carolyn Powell said Hawkins was a great student who she hates to see go so soon.
“She was motivated and determined,” Powell said. “She is just a great student who didn’t just squeak by.”
In addition to online classes, Hawkins said she took advance placement and honors classes to boost her grade-point-average — currently an unweighted 3.9 — putting her in the top 4 percent of her graduating class.
Northern’s AP History teacher Dana Mix said Hawkins’ maturity and passion for learning caused her to excel.
“She struggled at first, but she realized what she needed help with,” Mix said. “She got with me and now she is doing better. Her work ethic has improved and her grades have improved. She is very mature for her age.”
Hawkins said she is more motivated than ever because she accomplished what many said she could not.
“People said that I couldn’t do it, it was impossible to graduate early,” Hawkins said. “People were still finding out about it, even at class night.”
She said she made her final decision to graduate after dropping a friend off at college at the beginning of the school year.
“I felt this good feeling,” she said. “I was ready for it after that. I was so excited.”
Hawkins received more than $100,000 in scholarship offers. She said she is split on whether to attend Clemson University or UNC Greensboro.
Bonita Hawkins, her mother, said she is proud of her daughter either way.
“As she begins this new chapter in her life, I want her to always believe in herself and to always trust in God,” she said.
Kalya Hawkins said she will study psychiatry in college because it is her nature to help people. She plans to eventually open a private practice.
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