CLARKSTON, Ga.—Hannah Huff was 17 when her first article was published. Her work, “Identity in Langston Hughes’ ‘Mulatto’ and Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Use,’” was written for her Honors English class at Georgia State University’s Perimeter College and published in the spring 24th Edition of The Polishing Cloth, a Perimeter College book of sample student essays.
Becoming published for the first time was not Huff’s only recent milestone. On May 7, Huff, now 18, walked across the Clarkston Campus stage to accept her associate degree as part of the largest DeKalb Early College Academy class receiving associate degrees in the 10-year history of the program.
Sixty-nine DECA students received their associate degrees three weeks before their high school graduation May 30.
At 18, Huff is not the youngest graduate this year. Twenty-three of her fellow DECA graduates are just 17 years old.
“We usually represent one or two students at Perimeter’s graduation, but never this many,” said Kathy Hall, DECA program manager. “With the addition of summer funding, and the motivation of these students and families to complete their degree, the number of completed associates for the DECA program has risen to 96 percent.”
Hall said the addition of instructional support specialist Nakhia Hill on campus also helped by increasing the students’ academic, social and emotional support.
This year’s DECA graduates include a few other firsts: the first student to graduate on the engineering pathway, the first computer science students and the first student studying education. Most students graduate with an associate degree in general studies.
DECA students apply and are selected from area DeKalb County high schools to be dual enrolled in high school and in college courses at Georgia State’s Perimeter College.
They spend their freshman and sophomore high school years on the DECA campus on Mountain Industrial Boulevard in Stone Mountain and their junior and senior years on Georgia State’s Clarkston Campus.
DECA students typically continue beyond their associate degrees, going on to four-year universities and getting involved in student activities.
Huff is on track for further achievement, and she already knows her next steps. She has applied this summer to intern at the Resilience Rising Sagal writing program for a local radio station, in which she would capture local immigrant stories of young people for radio broadcast.
“And I’m thinking about collecting my poems and making a poetry book,” the avid writer said.
A recipient of the Zell Miller Scholarship, which pays for tuition and books for high-achieving scholars who have at least a 3.7 GPA. Huff, who holds a 3.8 GPA, plans to pursue her bachelor’s and master’s in psychology simultaneously. She has been accepted to the University of Georgia.
“I’m so excited,” said Huff. “The thing about DECA, is all the students are at the top. At middle school, I didn’t have to study much, but I really couldn’t do that at DECA. I had to teach myself how to study. It was a challenge. But I wouldn’t change a thing.”