‘Dual’ grad has a plan for college

Mya Powell will be a junior at the University of Mississippi when she moves into Oxford in August.
Staff Writer

Mya Powell will be a junior at the University of Mississippi when she moves into Oxford in August.

So? Ole Miss will have hundreds of juniors this fall.

Yes, but not many of them will be 18-year-old juniors.

Mya turned 18 Saturday. She was an honor graduate from West Point High School Sunday.

And this summer, she will graduate from East Mississippi Community College with an associates degree, meaning she already will have two years college credit.

“Originally, the idea was to just try to get maybe a year out of the way, to at least get a few classes. But after I did those first four classes last summer, it just sort of started,” Powell said of how she ended up where she is academically. Powell is one of 30 WPHS students -- the most ever -- who took advantage this year of the state’s dual enrollment program that allows high school students to take college courses and get high school and college credit.

Most students take a handful of courses, collecting a few hours toward college. For instance, in this year’s senior class 23 of the 30 students who took dual enrollment had 13 or fewer hours.

That’s about four classes. But a few did more, much more.

Ky’Asjiah Skinner had 16, Raven Davidson had 18, Jada Webb had 19, Bailey Vandenbranden had 20, Amy Lenoir had 23 and Chamiya Brownlee had 32. Then there is Mya, who has 47.

She took four courses last summer, five in the fall, and with the dean’s permission, seven in the spring.

That left her four courses short of her degree, which she will complete this summer.

She’s been on the Dean’s List and President’s list, maintained a 3.7 grade point average and has earned the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa status.

Meanwhile, she’s knocked out core college courses ranging from American lit and biology to public speaking, economics and art appreciation.

And don’t think all she did was school. She’a cheerleader, a Diamond Girl who worked at the baseball concession stand, is a member of seven organizations and worked part-time.

“Once I completed those first four classes, it was just about staying focused and time management. I learned a lot of that. I talked to my teachers and they thought I could do it,” she said.

And she also didn’t forget she is still a teenager.

“I had fun with my classmates, I hang out with my friends,” she said, noting that if anything got cut out it was her time in front of the TV.

Behind every good student are some encouraging -- and proud -- relatives and helpful teachers. Powell is no different.

“My teachers helped me a lot, they pushed me every day. Amy Crawford, my dual enrollment teacher, made sure we stayed on track,” Powell noted.

“My two culinary arts teachers played big roles. Janet Turner and I grew real close,” she continued, referring to her teacher who owns Stromboli’s restaurant in Starkville. “I looked up to her like a mom or a grandmother. She is very successful. She taught me lessons not just about food but about life, to never say never.

“And April Acker was helpful with my classes, picking what to take and how to schedule. We talked about my career goals,” the grad continued.

And her family has been there every step of the way. While supportive, they also have become a form of motivation.

“They encouraged me to try to do well.I wanted to graduate cum laude or higher. I want to continue to make them proud of me. My great-grandfather is beyond proud, he tells everyone about me and what I have accomplished.”

She plans to major in criminal justice at Ole Miss and hopes one day to be a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer in fact. At EMCC, she’s focused on getting core subjects out of the way, allowing her to emphasize her major at Ole Miss.

“That’s the place that has the expertise so I thought it would be better to focus on my major there,” she explained of the well-thought-out design. By taking advantage of the dual enrollment process, she not only got ahead but also saved money. Through dual enrollment, costs are must cheaper and the schools bear part of the financial burden. She encourages others to follow her model.

“It helped me in so many ways and not just academically ... with time management, discipline, skills I can use forever,” she stressed.

She’s also well ahead of the normal schedule for law school. Two years at Ole Miss and three years of law school does not sound too daunting for her now.

But it now may pose some unique challenges. When she starts classes as a junior at Ole Miss in August, she will only have been 18 for three months. Many of her fellow juniors will be three or more years older. That could cause some issues socially.

Not surprisingly given everything else she’s done, she’s thought about it.

“It’s just a matter of staying focused and not getting distracted. That’s what I’ve had to do the whole time anyway. If I set my mind to it, I can do it. My work comes first,” she stated emphatically, noting that at EMCC, most people in the five on-campus classes she took never noticed the age issue. “I don’t think it will be weird.”

Certainly she will have challenges. The words of her teachers and family will help guide her. And she has a little comfort in knowing she is inspiring others, even at sucha young age.

“A friend signed my yearbook and said I was her role model. That touched me, made be proud inside,” she concluded.