Senior Marcelo Cueva will graduate from Harper Middle High College May 23 with his high school diploma and an associate degree in networking technology. But he isn't waiting for his commencement ceremony — he's commencing his career immediately. He joined Rentokil Steritech as an information technology (IT) support specialist May 18.
"The IT courses I took at Harper have allowed me to get employment," he said. "I want to work in my field and save so I can continue my education."
Marcelo's work experience began while taking IT courses. He found out about a co-op/internship program through Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). After meeting his course requirements and doing an interview, he was accepted into the program. Three of his internships were with CPCC and one was with his current employer. He was able to build his resume through these opportunities.
"I built hardware, provided technical support, diagnosed and fixed hardware components, solved software issues and much more," he said. "I was using the skills I was learning in the classroom at my internships."
His progress has been impressive, said school leaders.
"Marcelo's impact at Harper has been immediate. He has mentored several students with IT internships and has helped them choose the right courses to meet their future goals," said Principal Brandy Nelson.
Marcelo has also obtained three professional certifications and will finish his second associate degree in science over the summer. He plans to apply to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in a year. Marcelo is the first in his family to graduate from college. He attributes his success to his family and staff at Harper and Levine, where he started high school.
"What I love about the middle colleges is the family atmosphere and the amazing people," he said. "I transferred to Harper from Levine because it was closer to home and to my internships, but they both helped develop my skills."
Errin Forges, a Harper school counselor, said Marcelo displays all of the qualities educators try to instill in their students.
"He is mature, takes initiative and is extremely hardworking," said Forges. "He is the type of person who does not always make his presence known but his absence is certainly felt. His previous counselor, Ms. Simmons, shared that sentiment with me before I met him and I can say that it holds true. I am proud to call him one of my students."
During his time at Levine, Marcelo led the on-campus Youth Commission International, a Christian club.
"I led Bible studies, group discussions, planned guest speakers and organized leadership meetings," he said. "The club allowed me to interact and learn about people from all backgrounds. I developed amazing relationships and learned more about myself."
Marcelo has participated in the Harper Ambassador's Club and Habitat for Humanity. He has volunteered at various organizations and events. In his spare time, he enjoys watching soccer or going hiking. His experience has been different than that of students in a traditional high school but he said he would not change his decision to attend a middle college.
"My parents are the most hard-working people I know. They have sacrificed so much for me to be where I am today," he said. "It doesn't stop here."
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