By Johnny Jackson
About 400 Clayton State University students will graduate today, concluding years of work toward obtaining their college degrees.
They will take part in the university's 38th Annual Spring Commencement.
One of those is Derek Delk, who, as an 18-year-old, will graduate with an associate's degree in pre-engineering/integrative studies. The average age of students at the university is about 28 years old; only 1 percent of the student body is under the age of 18.
More than that, Delk is still a high school senior - he has yet to graduate from high school. He is the first person to earn a degree from Clayton State, while still enrolled in high school.
"I'm pretty proud," said Delk, adding that graduating from Clayton State has been one of his proudest accomplishments.
He will graduate from Union Grove High School in McDonough on May 30, when he will join some classmates he has not seen in the past two years.
During the summer of his junior year, Delk decided to enroll in Clayton State's dual/joint enrollment program.
"I guess I wasn't being challenged enough [in high school]," he said. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Delk admits that he misses some of his friends and participating on his high school math and academic teams. He said his decision has, nonetheless, resulted in an unforgettable experience.
"I'd highly recommend it, because it's an experience of a lifetime," he said.
Clayton State's dual/joint enrollment program offers qualified high school juniors and seniors the option to begin working toward their college degree as they pursue their high school diplomas, by taking college courses for dual credit.
While most students pursue college credit on a part-time basis, Delk decided to pursue both his college degree and high school diploma full-time at Clayton State. It required him to attend classes at the university year-round over the course of two years, in order to make his expected high school and college graduations.
"He didn't feel like he was being stimulated enough academically in high school," said Delk's mother, Pat Delk. "We left it up to him and what he'd like to do. It was a better suit for Derek; it's more open for the students."
"It's phenomenal," she added. "He's truly goal oriented. He sets the mark very high."
Delk has been accepted into the Georgia Institute of Technology Honors Program, where he plans to major in physics and mathematics. He aspires to teach the subjects at the college level.
Delk will take the summer off and begin, this fall, working toward his bachelors degree, and he said he believes he is ready.
The first ceremony - for the expected 195 College of Arts & Sciences graduates, including Delk - begins at 9 a.m. The second, scheduled for noon, will be for some 200-plus graduates of the School of Business, the College of Information and Mathematical Sciences, the College of Professional Studies, and the School of Nursing.
Both ceremonies will be held in Clayton State's Athletics and Fitness Center.
Judge Michael Baird will serve as the commencement speaker. Baird, a member of the first baccalaureate class of Clayton State in 1989, is a native of Clayton County and has served the community and Clayton State for many years.
Clayton State English professor Thomas Barnett, a senior faculty member with 37 years at Clayton State, will serve as the faculty marshal for both ceremonies.
On the net:
Clayton State University: