‘One of the best opportunities’

Merancas Middle College High has filled a gap in north Mecklenburg County. Located on the Merancas campus of Central Piedmont Community College, it is the fourth middle college where students can earn a high school diploma, as well as college credits free of charge.

Merancas was dedicated Oct. 31. Dr. Tamara Williams, dean of CPCC's Merancas campus, said she began looking to establish a middle college four years ago.

"The process was not easy, but we kept pushing forward," Dr. Williams said. "We are so grateful for the partnership with CMS because it means students will now have multiple pathways."

Merancas is a Cooperative Innovative High School and part of the Career and College Promise program. Students take Honors or Advanced Placement courses required for high school graduation during their junior and senior years, as well as one additional year. They can take college courses toward a post-secondary certificate, college diploma, associate's degree and/or industry certification at any CPCC campus. They also have all the privileges of a CPCC student.

The school has 120 students this year and room to grow. Dr. Williams said it was important to provide more options for students and that local industry partners are also excited to have a new pipeline for talent.

"Our Merancas students have met rigorous requirements to gain admission here," said CMS Chief of Staff Laura Francisco in remarks at the dedication. "This program is truly a special one for students who want to get a jump on college. As a district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is proud of Merancas and the other three middle college high schools. They represent our district-wide commitment to helping students prepare for success in a rapidly changing world."

Dr. Kandi Deitemeyer, CPCC president, said that 2,500 high school students in CMS have earned more than 17,000 college credits. For families, that represents a $1.2 million savings.

"That's something that's unmatched," Dr. Deitemeyer said. "This is a crown jewel."

Junior Andrew Garrison helped open the dedication ceremony with a saxophone performance. Other speakers included Principal Jametta Martin-Tanner and Rhonda Lennon, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education member for District 1. Vice Chairperson Elyse Dashew, Thelma Byers-Bailey and Tom Tate also attended.

Junior Morgan Holcombe and senior Javier Lopez spoke about the atmosphere at Merancas. Javier said he was impressed when someone took the time to visit him and talk about joining the school's first senior class.

"That showed family values," he said. "I can call Merancas Middle College my second family. This was one of the best opportunities I took in my life, and I'm sure it would be for other students."