HENDERSON — For the third consecutive year, the end of the 2020-21 academic year will see Henderson Collegiate continue the tradition of having every member of its senior class accepted into college.

Executive Director and co-founder Eric Sanchez said that he and the entire faculty at Henderson Collegiate take great pride in emphasizing the importance of education so that their students have the tools necessary to be successful at the school and into their collegiate years.

“We’re continuing to change the paradigm that people have about public education,” Sanchez said. “Your zip code does not determine your destiny, and that is an important part of what we do here.”

Sanchez added that everyone at the school had to put in an arduous amount of work to achieve the graduation milestone once again, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing everyone to rely on remote learning.

Education as a whole has been much more difficult for everyone in the United States, as Sanchez has seen how several different schools in impoverished communities have fallen further behind those with significantly more resources at their disposal.

Despite the current circumstances, Sanchez was impressed with how the student body persevered through the adjustments to stay focused inside their own remote learning environment. He particularly praised the school’s seniors for stepping up as leaders to the other students.

While graduation is an important accomplishment for any high-schooler, the word itself is hardly uttered around Henderson Collegiate. All classes and rhetoric at the school are tailored specifically to prepare students for college.

Sanchez said that Henderson Collegiate provides students a collegiate environment at the high-school level, adding that students have been very receptive of the responsibilities and expectations they are required to shoulder, which in turn has made their transition into college far smoother.

“I recently had a Zoom meeting with one of our former students who currently goes to [the University of Chicago],” Sanchez said. “I asked him how the classes were and he said they were exactly the way Henderson Collegiate was. They are fast-paced classes and everyone has high expectations. Students here are built for that type of world that expects a lot out of them.”

With such an environment at Henderson Collegiate, Sanchez said that the school offers a support system for students that guides them through every step of the application process so that they can be accepted to a college of their preference.

The work put into perfecting Henderson Collegiate’s environment has paid off, as the outgoing seniors have been accepted to schools that include top universities in the state all the way to the Ivy League.

“This class is unbelievable,” Sanchez said. “They are taking our school to another level. We had a student that got into Harvard this year but we also had several students get into N.C. State and [UNC Chapel Hill]. We have Elon, UNCG and ECU, but we just found out that we have Davidson too.”

A handful of outgoing Henderson Collegiate seniors will also be a part of a 2+2 program, enrolling in a community college for two years before finishing up the last two years of their bachelor’s degree at a four-year university.

Sanchez is proud that the current Henderson Collegiate class is helping change stereotypes about Vance County, but he wants all of them to enjoy the college experience and expose themselves to people and ideas that will help make their community and the surrounding environment better places for everyone.

“We treat [the seniors] like they are our kids,” Sanchez said. “I want them to explore the world and I want them to go out there and find their passions and build friendships that last a lifetime. They should go explore themselves, learn different perspectives and make decisions on where they want to be in the world.”