Cumberland International Early College student graduates Fayetteville State at 18

Mikayla Raines was one of hundreds of Fayetteville State University students to walk across the stage at the sesquicentennial commencement to accept their degree. Raines, however, is not your typical college graduate. She was a student of the Cumberland International Early College High School at FSU and is graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in psychology at 18, after just one year of being a full-time college student.

“It is amazing,” she said. “It is a really rigorous experience and it takes a lot of work, patience, and sleepless nights. I am glad I made it through, but it was very difficult.”

Fayetteville State hosts Cumberland International Early College High School, as well as Cross Creek Early College High School, on campus. Both schools act as traditional high schools while also introducing college classes and curriculum to students. Students who attend Cumberland International Early College or Cross Creek Early College start taking college courses on FSU’s campus by their sophomore year in high school.

“Usually around sophomore year is when we get immersed into college classes,” Raines said. “We took one class a semester and by junior year I became a full-time high school and full-time college student.”

Raines said hard work, persistence, and a lot of help and encouragement from her mom played a big part in her excelling in the unique program. Her mother, April Raines, who works with incoming freshman at Fayetteville State as an Academic Support Specialist has worked in higher education for 15 years. When she heard about the Early Colleges on FSU’s campus, she thought Mikayla would be a good fit.

“I knew Cross Creek Early College had been on the campus,” April said. “Mikayla has always been in private schools and had been interested in Spanish. We talked about Cross Creek Early College but I knew that a new International Early College was coming — Cumberland County International Early College. We talked about it and at first she wasn’t sure she wanted to do it. She had been in private school her whole life but we talked about transitioning her in her ninth grade year. She applied and was accepted, and that was how it came to be.”

Students of the Cumberland International Early College must study a language and can choose between Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or Arabic. Raines chose to study Spanish and is now graduating from FSU with a minor in that language.

Most students who attend one of the early college programs have enough college credits when they graduate from high school that they are able to complete their college degree within two years. Raines was even more accelerated than that, completing her degree in one year. Last semester, she took 20 credits.

Raines was able to maintain a balance between school work and extracurricular activities while at the Early College and also while a full-time student at FSU, all while excelling in her academics, earning a cumulative GPA of 3.7. In high school, Mikayla founded Global Girls, a program that helps with girls’ confidence and self-esteem. She was also part of the honor society and the Spanish national honor society. She was part of the Student Government Association her freshman year as well. While a full-time college student, she has been a member of the Executive Board of Bronco Women as the Community Outreach Liaison, and is also a member of Psi Chi, the international psychology honor society.  Raines also balanced two jobs — working as a peer academic leader and working at the writing center. As a freshman, she is also being inducted into the Phi Eta Sigma freshman honor society.

Mikayla and April said they would both recommend the early college program to other students and parents, but that it must be a good fit. They both said that the students must be willing to work hard and that the parents must be willing to help their child. They agreed that it’s definitely not for every student.

“Parents need to make sure that their student is the right fit,” April said. “Time management is very important, and students must be able to manage high school, social life, and of course academics because they have to do it all. Don’t just say, ‘This is a good opportunity to gain college credits and graduate early.’ It would definitely be a good fit for a student that is driven and wants to put in the work.”

Raines also graduated from college debt-free. FSU, in collaboration with Cumberland County Schools, pays for the college courses while students are enrolled in the Early Colleges. For her year as a full-time student at FSU, Raines applied for a debt- free scholarship which paid for her room and board and for tuition.

“It is amazing,” she said. “I just want to be able to shed some light on the program and I want to be an example for other people in the Early College that want or need to graduate in a certain period.”

Raines plans to continue her education and will attend graduate school to study psychology following graduation. She plans to be an active member of the FSU Alumni Association and hopes to run for Miss Alumni.