Featured Photo: Blue Ridge Community College and Brevard High School student Ryan Merrill stands in front of Blue Ridge sign at the Transylvania County Campus.
By Will King
NC Career Coach
Blue Ridge Community College and Brevard High School student Ryan Merrill hopes to attend NC State to become a Mechanical Engineer after completing high school. Merrill is enrolled at Blue Ridge as part of the Career & College Promise (CCP) program, which allows students to get transferable college credits while attending high school.
Merrill joined the CCP program as a 9th grade student, because she was identified as an academically and intellectually gifted (AIG) student in Math and English during middle school. Through state regulations, AIG students are allowed to enroll in the CCP program as long as they reach the benchmark score on one of several standardized tests, like the SAT, Pre-ACT, ACT and others. As a result, Merrill had twenty seven college credit hours when she began her junior year of high school. These credit hours do not include the Advanced Placement courses she has completed at Brevard High, which can also count as college credits.
Merrill is a STEM Scholar through Transylvania County Schools and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an academic honor society at Blue Ridge.
In addition to Merrill’s accomplishments in the classroom, she is also involved in extracurricular activities at BHS and in the community. She is the Captain of the Color Guard for the past three years, a student representative for the Transylvania County Human Relations Council, the Marching Band Business Manager, Treasurer of the International Thespian Society, a member of the Interact Club and member of the casts of two high school plays, Mary Poppins and And Then There Were None. Merrill also runs the pumpkin patch at Silvermont and helps clean the Children’s Center.
Time management and self care are the secrets to Merrill’s academic success. The BHS junior states, “Time management and self care are both crucial to my busy life. I keep a planner to keep track of my academic and extracurricular activities. That way I know I do not miss any important events. I also schedule time to relax or run when I get too busy. The physical exertion and time alone while running helps me recenter my thoughts.” Merrill adds, “Managing such a busy schedule takes drive, grit and of course, some late nights completing homework, but scheduling time for myself in the midst of the chaos is probably the thing that keeps me sane.”
Merrill is grateful for the supportive network of friends and adults in her life. “I try to surround myself with people that are encouraging. My friends are very supportive. They consistently push me to do my best in everything I do while assuring me that I have the ability to complete the toughest of tasks. My teachers are also very helpful. They answer my questions, give me advice and encourage me to reach my potential. I am very grateful for all of their support”, said Merrill.
When asked if she has any advice for students considering dual enrollment in high school, Merrill states, “My college classes often involve more independent studying than some of my other classes, but these classes are a very doable challenge if you apply yourself.” She adds, “At first, take classes that interest you and support the work you will do in other classes. My first Blue Ridge course was Public Speaking. I chose this class because it transfers to other colleges and universities and is part of almost every Associates or Bachelor’s degree. Taking this class increased my confidence when speaking to groups and presenting projects in my other high school classes.”
Free resources are available to help students determine or reach their career goals. Merrill encourages other students to talk with their parents, teachers and counselors about their future plans. “I found that there are many resources to help me plan my future. If you already know what you want to do for a career, find out what skills or classes you need for the career and start completing them right away. She added, “I knew that I wanted to be a Mechanical Engineer, but I did not know the best path to accomplish this goal. The Blue Ridge Career Coach helped me find the published guidelines for students transferring to NC State for this program. It was very helpful in mapping out the rest of the courses I would take in high school.”
For students that do not know what career they plan to pursue, there are resources, such as career interest surveys, available on the NCcareers.org, CFNC.org and Pathful Explore websites to give students ideas for how and where to start their journey.
If you would like to learn more about the Career & College Promise dual enrollment program or how to find and take a career interest survey, contact Will King, the Blue Ridge Career Coach, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-243-3960.