For a majority of high school graduates, college is the next step. Remy Thornton and A’Mia Johnson aren’t most high schoolers.
Both Central Coosa valedictorian Remy Thornton and salutatorian A’Mia Johnson earned associate degrees at Central Alabama Community College before graduating from Central Coosa on Thursday evening.
Johnson and Thornton were heading into their final year when they realized they could complete their degrees ahead of graduation and worked to make it happen. The two enrolled in dual enrollment courses, juggled online and in-person college courses on top of their high school curriculum and extracurriculars then graduated from CACC.
Johnson said the accomplishment did not sink in until after completion.
“It really didn’t hit me (graduating with an associate degree) until after I completed the classes,” Johnson said. “I came home and cried because I couldn’t believe that I had done it. It seemed like something that was way too big or too much to actually accomplish but I’m so blessed to have accomplished that.”
Johnson and Thornton said the experience was not without its stressors and was certainly hard work, but they both had their own support systems to keep them going.
“I took it head on; I didn’t mind taking more classes at all,” Thornton said. “It seemed like a really nice thing to do to get prepared. ... The schedule was a little bit more difficult. I was very lucky because of my parents and I had a lot of help along the way.”
Johnson echoed that sentiment.
“My family always told me they felt like I could really thrive, so the motivation from them just really pushed me to go ahead and work hard,” Johnson said. “It was stressful at times but it was never too much to handle. I feel really blessed to have done it.”
Coosa County Schools superintendent Andi Wilson said Thornton and Johnson are prime examples of what every student should be.
“Both of these girls are exceptional students,” Wilson said. “They have always been the ideal students. ... They are well-deserving of their accomplishments and we are very proud of them.”
Throughout her high school career, Thornton has been active in extracurricular activities such as serving as co-captain of the cheerleading team and a member of Student Government Association (SGA), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Diamond Dolls and Beta Club.
“I like to always be doing something,” Thornton said. “Sometimes it was stressful but overall I just enjoyed it.”
Thornton even initiated a women’s self-defense class for the community her senior year. Thornton’s mother works at the Coosa County Sheriff’s Office and knew of a co-worker who teaches self-defense classes. From there, the two decided to create a women’s self-defense class.
“We just thought it would be a really good idea,” Thornton said. “Whenever you’re in college, maybe you have had an experience, or sometimes people will approach you and you don’t know what their motives may be. It’s very nice to know that I’d be safe and so I just wanted to share that with the community and other women who may feel the same way.”.
Thornton’s associate degree is in interdisciplinary studies and she will be attending the University of South Alabama in the fall. She has applied for the radiology program and, if accepted, will start in the fall and complete the program in two years.
Johnson, a December graduate of CACC with an associate degree in business and a certificate in office administration, will be attending Jacksonville State University in the fall and plans to major in nursing.
“I decided to do nursing because of my mentor, my mother’s childhood best friend, who is a nurse,” Johnson said. “I’ve always wanted to do healthcare.”
Johnson served as a member of SGA, Educational Talent Search, Key Club, Future Health Professionals (HOSA) and president of Beta Club throughout her time in high school.
“I really enjoyed my time in high school, but I faced a lot of hardships like any average person,” Johnson said. “The challenges that I faced really helped me to grow into the person I am today; I’m grateful for the good and the hard times.”
In her salutatorian speech, Johnson encouraged her classmates to never give up.
“There are a few times I did not actually try to do something because I was afraid of failing at it or what other people would say,” Johnson said. “I felt like that really hindered me from a lot. I grew from that and understand that we can never let the fear of struggle keep us from even trying.”
Thornton said she is very thankful to have been a part of a class that got along and also preached for her classmates to keep going.
“I would like for my class to remember to always stay positive and feel encouraged to keep going,” Thornton said. “I never want them to give up on their dreams and their goals in life because that’s kind of something that I’ve always I’ve tried to remind myself throughout my experiences.”