Graduate Berit Raines poses with her degree on May 13, 2023.

Blue Ridge Graduate Berit Raines Earns College Degree Before High School Diploma

Featured Photo: Graduate Berit Raines poses with her degree on May 13, 2023.

Story/Photo by: Benjamin Rickert, Marketing & Communications Dept.

As Berit Raines proudly walked across the stage at Blue Ridge Community College on May 13, she achieved something unique; she graduated from college before finishing high school. Now, she is waiting for her big day at Hendersonville High on June 9, where she’ll be named her school’s Class of 2023 valedictorian.

Berit Raines smiles after receiving her degree from President Leatherwood on May 13, 2023.

Berit Raines smiles after receiving her degree from President Leatherwood on May 13, 2023.

As Raines was presented an Associate in Arts degree by Blue Ridge President Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, she had a lot on her mind.

“I was thinking about how supportive everyone has been and how great of a community Blue Ridge has been,” said Raines.

“A big thought was also ‘do not trip on this stage,’” she joked.

Berit Raines began her college career as a Hendersonville junior in Blue Ridge’s Career and College Promise (CCP) program, which allows students to take numerous tuition-free college classes while enrolled in high school. Many of the credits she earned from these classes – several of which were fully online – applied toward both her high school and college credentials. Berit also took Blue Ridge classes over the summer and made use of her advanced placement class credits. This is how she graduated from college with honors nearly a full month before finishing grade 12.

“I really enjoyed the variety of courses I was able to get in addition to what was available at my high school,” she explained.

With encouragement from her high school advisor as a junior, Raines chose Blue Ridge’s College Transfer CCP pathway. This decision will expand her options and help her save money when she later pursues a four-year degree. Raines now plans to attend Wellesley College near Boston, Massachusetts, and her current career goal is to work in an art museum, serving in a role that involves curation or conservation. The art and art history classes she took at Blue Ridge were a perfect fit for her future goals.

“All of my instructors were incredibly supportive and collaborative, and it was a really great experience,” she said.

In fact, Raines said her instructors were the best part of her college experience. She explained that the faculty understood her needs and capabilities, as well as how to collaborate to help her get the best results. She specifically named art instructor Aaron Bernard and philosophy/world religions instructor Eric Williamson as inspiring educators.

Before Berit can take all she has learned to the Boston area this fall, she still has a few weeks of high school remaining. She’ll also need to wear the iconic cap and gown once more.

“It’s an odd feeling having graduated from college before high school. It’s not the usual order of things,” she said with a smile. “But it’s refreshing.”

At Blue Ridge Community College, area high school students can pursue numerous transferable tuition-free Career and College Promise pathways. These pathways lead to numerous credentials that prepare a student for entry level positions after high school, or for accelerated completion of credentials, degrees, and diplomas at the college level. In addition to on-campus and online courses that high school students can participate in, Blue Ridge Community College offers a unique program called Blue Ridge Scholars, which offers face-to-face college courses provided in a cohort model on the high school campus for qualified juniors and seniors. Students earn 25-27 semester hours of college credits. 

Students and parents interested in learning more about the Career and College Promise program can visit