Of the nearly 2,200 students receiving degrees, diplomas and certificates from Midlands Technical Wednesday, the one who walked across the stage first happened to be the last one born. That’s for this commencement ceremony or any other ceremony since the college has been keeping record.
After two years at Dreher High School, Jayda Manning needed some flexibility in her schedule and transferred to the Richland One Middle College (ROMC), located on the Midlands Technical College Beltline Campus. Two years later at age 17, she is the youngest person to ever receive an associate’s degree from MTC.
“My mom was always strict on me about school,” said Jayda about the importance of a college education. “Not until later did I see what she meant. Without an education, it’s hard to get a career. Not just a job, but a career. When you put two people side by side, the one with an education is always going to be the better candidate.”
Jayda said the Richland One Middle College helped set her up to earn her degree easily and quickly. ROMC provides students with a seamless transition from high school to college in a flexible, intimate, student-centered environment.
“I’ve been in this business for 25 years,” said Dr. Tiniece Javis, Dean of the Richland One Middle College, who knew Jayda as a track star when she worked as an assistant principal at Dreher. “There’s no substitute for a small learning environment. You get to know the students and they get to know you.”
And for Jayda the best part about the Richland One Middle College was it allowed her to take MTC classes for free.
“I feel like it’s the same education as a four-year college,” she said, beginning her MTC coursework in the summer of 2014. “The classes are smaller and there’s more one-on-one time with the teachers. Here you know everybody.”
Jayda wasn’t the first in her family to go to college. Her mom also received an associate degree from MTC, and her older sister attends Clemson.
“I told my sister she should come here instead of going to Clemson,” said Jayda. “Here you can really keep your mind on school.”
At first Jayda, like all ROMC students, was only allowed to take two college-level courses at a time. But as she kept getting A’s in her classes, her advisors allowed her to take two, then three courses at a time. Soon Jayda was taking college classes in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Jayda said her teachers and small classes at ROMC and MTC made all the difference in her ability to succeed. Dr. Javis said that’s just how the middle college model is designed.
“In most high schools the teacher-student ratio is much greater,” said Javis. “At the Middle College it is 16 to one. That really helps us learn what the students’ goals are, and how to help them achieve those goals. There’s no comparison. It’s not that the other schools aren’t good, it’s just that we are smaller and some students need an alternative setting.”
And Jayda says it can work for anyone whose needs may be different and who is willing to put in the hard work.
“Take advantage of the opportunity,” she advised. “You can do anything you put your mind to. A college degree takes a lot of time management, but it can be done. Midlands Tech – you can get anywhere from here.”
Jayda has applied and already been accepted into Claflin College as a junior. And from there the ROTC student plans to follow her father and serve her country in the US Army.