All options open

Graduating early means Annias Bailey can keep his options open. He has a lot of them. In February, he will graduate from Mallard Creek High School and travel to Germany for a 30-day soccer trial, an intensive training program where players are considered by professional international clubs. He's been accepted by Wingate University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Richmond University in London, Belmont Abbey College and High Point University.

Annias has been playing competitive soccer since he was eight years old. For the last three years, he has been playing for the Carolina Rapids Soccer Club. He's experienced some trials and tribulations along the way. He sustained a groin injury during the first season, which sidelined him. After making a full recovery, he began the next season playing at the club's highest level but was later diagnosed with mononucleosis (mono). Although, it's a common virus, it can bring extended fatigue.

"A scout came to my tournament to see me play. I hadn't fully recovered from the mono so I didn't play well," he said. "I was disappointed because I want to play at a college or pro level. Setbacks make me work harder."

Annias has been able to combine his love of sports and interest in business. Mallard Creek offers electives in marketing, which includes sports and entertainment. He enrolled in the courses and put his knowledge into use as a member the school's DECA club, which prepares members to be leaders and entrepreneurs. His sophomore year, he placed first in statewide DECA competition using sports and entertainment as his topic.

"I want to major in business when I go to college and would like to take more courses in marketing," he said. "I'm a very creative person so I liked the marketing campaign projects the most, especially producing ads and commercials." 

soccer_inside photo.jpgFor his senior exit project, Annias chose homelessness as his topic. He researched it and volunteered at Second Harvest and Feeding America. His presentation received a perfect score.

"I came away from it very grateful for everything I have in my life," he said. "I was also very humbled by one of the judge's comments. He told me it was one of the best presentations he'd heard."

Principal Kevin Garay is proud of Annias and his accomplishments.

"He is a testament to perseverance, work ethic and commitment to academic goals," said Garay.

Annias credits his school counselor Stephanie Harris for helping him be aware of his options. Harris said Annias is a determined student who always challenged himself.

"Annias did not shy away from rigorous coursework," said Harris. "It is impressive when you add in the fact he is a competitive soccer player."

Annias almost passed up early graduation but an email he received from his grandmother changed his mind.

"I had the credits to apply for early graduation but I wasn't sure if I should do it. I was a bit scared," he said. "The day before the deadline my grandmother sent me a scripture that said, 'For I am the Lord, our God, who take hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.' That was the sign I needed. Later, the opportunity to play soccer in Germany came along as well as the early college acceptance letters."