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100 Percent of First Class at Carver Early College to Graduate May 28

Atlanta — May 26, 2009

High-school graduation is an important milestone in any high school senior’s life. But for 79 students slated to receive diplomas on May 28 from Atlanta’s Carver Early College High School, commencement will mark an achievement, not just for each individual, but also for a special program designed with them in mind.

These students are the first graduating class of the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Early College Initiative, which strives to raise the high-school and college graduation rates of underserved students. Each of the 79 students has been accepted to at least one two-year or four-year postsecondary institution, including several in the University System. They graduate not only with diplomas in hand but with college credits on their transcripts. And they leave no classmate behind – every single student who enrolled in Carver’s Early College program is graduating.

Launched in 2005 at Carver by the Atlanta Public Schools in partnership with Georgia State University, the initiative targets student populations underrepresented at USG institutions – low-income minority students, those for whom English is a second language and those who are the first in their family to attend college.

“At one time, Carver High School was rated among the lowest performing schools in the state, with a 36 percent graduation rate in 2004-05,” said USG Chancellor Erroll B. Davis Jr., who will be an honored guest on stage at the school’s 8:30 p.m. commencement at the Atlanta Civic Center. “The students in the first graduating class at Carver Early College are 100 percent minorities and 82 percent first-generation college students. This is a phenomenal achievement, truly remarkable.”

In 2004, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the University System’s Pre-School through College (P-16) Department a $2 million, five-year grant to support the opening of five early college schools. The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation provided an additional $2 million in matching funds to spread over the next three years.

Including Carver, there are now 12 early college schools throughout Georgia – each partnered with a USG institution – that essentially provide students with the opportunity to earn up to two years of college or an associate’s degree while attending high school. In addition to Carver, they are: Albany Early College, DeKalb Early College Academy (DECA), Early College Academy of Columbus (ECAC), Engineering Early College Academy at Maynard Jackson High School, Georgia College Early College (GCEC), Macon-Bibb Early College, Regional Early Admission for College Hopefuls (REACH) Early College, Risley Early College Academy (RECA), Savannah Early College Academy, Sumter County Schools-Georgia Southwestern Early College (SCS-GSW Early College) and Valdosta Early College Academy (VECA). For background information on these schools, go to

“The Georgia Early College Initiative is an intervention strategy for students who may not be well served by traditional middle and high schools,” said USG Early College Director Dawn Cooper. “The schools provide a rigorous course of study, high expectations and supportive, personalized learning. They strive to remove the financial, academic and psychological hurdles that prevent too many students from entering and succeeding in college.”

The salutatorian for the Carver Commencement is Derrick Standifer, who is the first in his family to attend college. Since transferring to Carver from Booker T. Washington High School as a sophomore, the 18-year-old has taken nine courses at Georgia State, completed a summer-study program in Panama and Costa Rica and served as a volunteer at Atlanta New Century Schools.

“I used to think of colleges in terms of football,” Standifer said. “Now I have a choice of completing my bachelor’s degree at a number of very good schools, including Howard University, Virginia State and Florida A&M. I really liked my economics course, and I really like tutoring, so I plan to be an economics teacher when I graduate.”

“The unique mission of the Early College High School Initiative is to raise the high-school graduation and postsecondary success rates of underserved youth, and to say we are extremely happy with the outcome at Carver is an understatement,” Cooper concluded.

The Carver graduates are still receiving acceptance letters and mulling over their decisions, but among the institutions they’ve been accepted to are the University of Georgia, the University of West Georgia, Georgia State, Albany State, Savannah State, Fort Valley State and Middle Georgia College.

“At Carver Early College, we are committed to the early-college model and the great opportunities it presents to high school students,” said Carver Principal Marcene Thornton. “We believe that this model has the potential not just to change the lives of individual students, but also the lives of families and generations to come. As we graduate Georgia’s first early-college students, we celebrate the success of the model and the profound possibilities it holds for changing lives through higher education.”

For more information about Georgia’s Early Colleges, go to

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