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That's NEAAT: Academy, early college start year

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Aaron Forbes, 15, participates in a team-building exercise at the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies on Wednesday. During the exercise, Forbes and and his teammates, without use of their hands, tried to keep a balloon from touching the floor. The Elizabeth City-based charter school began its new school year Wednesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Both the Northeast Academy of Aerospace and Advanced Technologies and the Camden Early College High School opened the new school year Wednesday with more students than last year.

Andrew Harris, chief executive officer at NEAAAT, said the Elizabeth City-based charter school has 360 students this year in grades 7-11, compared to the 250 students it had in grades 7-10 last year. This year’s students at NEAAT come from eight counties: Chowan, Dare, Gates, Bertie, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck.

Camden Early College High School Principal Amber Davis, meanwhile, said the school has 178 students this year, an increase from last year, which was the school’s first year. Davis said a lot more Early College High School students will be taking courses at College of The Albemarle this year.

Riley Pingree, Mackensi Rollings and Ethen Osborne are all sophomores at Camden Early College High School.

Pingree said she likes the atmosphere at the school, which she described as “very close-knit, almost family-like.”

Rollings said the biggest challenge this year will probably be taking college courses. But she considers herself ready for the challenge.

Osborne said he is looking forward to taking college courses. He’ll be taking college history, a college physical education course and a college writing course.

Shainaya McCoy, a junior at the early college, said she, too, is looking forward to taking college classes this year.

“You can get a head start on going to college,” said McCoy, who wants to be a veterinarian and plans to attend N.C. State University.

McCoy will be taking college-level English and history classes. She said she will need to use her time wisely because her class schedule is going to be busier than in previous years.

Davis said a new offering this year is a physical education course that will involve students going to the Currituck Family YMCA.

“We’re excited about that,” she said.

The early college has a new college liaison, Brittany Mishler. There are nine teachers and the school is currently advertising for a student support coordinator.

Because the early college’s school year is based on COA’s schedule, its students are beginning the new year nearly three weeks earlier than their counterparts at Camden County High School. Their school year doesn’t begin until Aug. 28.  

Over at NEAAAT, David Johnson, a junior, said he is looking forward to “a little bit more student freedom” this year. 

Rachel Roundtree, also a junior, said the best thing about the charter school is that “I get to be with my friends all day.” She said the school offers smaller classes and one-on-one attention from teachers.

Fellow junior Kmya Bunch said it’s necessary to adjust to a new learning style at NEAAAT, but she likes the hands-on and project-based learning.

Johnson said the way NEAAAT provides instruction suits him perfectly.

“I learn better by doing hands-on stuff,” Johnson said. “It’s why I wanted to come here.”

Johnson said he would like to go into sports writing or sports management. Roundtree is interested in culinary arts. Bunch plans to be a registered nurse.

Allen Neal, a freshman at NEAAAT, said he chose the school because he thought it would help him get ready for college.

Bailey Boswood, also a freshman, said she had been falling behind before she came to NEAAAT. But she has gotten individual attention that has helped her catch up and thrive in her learning, she said.

Neal said he loves the hands-on learning style at the school.

NEAAAT is devoting the first three days of the new school year to team-building and orientation. Harris said the school has learned that it needs to take some time at the beginning of the school year to allow students to get to know each other, especially since they will be working together on projects throughout the year.

“Everything we do really is in teams,” Harris said. “It’s a team-based environment.”

The school welcomes Tonya Little this year as chief operating officer. Harris said Little will handle the school’s day-to-day operations, much like a principal, while he will be focused on policy and strategic planning.

There are 20 teachers at NEAAAT this year. The school’s student body is expected to take a total of 150 college courses.

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