ROCKINGHAM COUNTY — On June 10, graduates from Reidsville, Rockingham County, Morehead and McMichael High Schools gathered their diplomas and crossed the stage, joining the May graduates of Rockingham Early College High School in the next chapter of life.
Across all district high schools, 942 students graduated, with 441 of those graduates – or about 47 percent – accepting college offers, based on totals from school officials. The Rockingham County Schools Class of 2017 received more than $14 million in scholarships.
Morehead High School towered over all other local high schools with the highest college-bound rate in the county with 182 college offer acceptances, about 83 percent of their 220-student strong graduating class.
Rockingham Early College High School came in second at about 69 percent. However, that same percentage of the RECHS Class of 2017 graduated with associate’s degrees already in hand from Rockingham Community College.
McMichael High School had 140 college-bound students from its 211 graduates, Reidsville High School had 98 of 209 and Rockingham County High School had 66 of 223.
The Rockingham County Schools Class of 2017 saw a total of 140 National Honors Society graduates, 135 graduating North Carolina Scholars, and 98 Presidents Education Awards.
According to state data, the overall graduation rate for the county has shown an upward trend in recent years. The 2010-11 graduation rate was at 72.4 percent and hit 79.9 in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, the dropout rate has decreased from 4.58 percent in 2010-11 to 3.22 percent in 2015-16.
Superintendent Rodney Shotwell expects the 2016-17 numbers to continue those trends.
“I don't have the final numbers yet and I won’t until the end of month, but this will probably be the highest percentage of seniors graduating in four years that Rockingham County has ever seen and probably the lowest dropout rate that's ever been here in the county too,” Shotwell said.
The superintendent attributes this success to offering more programs that students like.
“This young man, he came to me and he wanted to get his GED because he knew then that he wanted to be a firefighter, so he was willing to forgo that senior year so that he could go ahead and get enrolled in a program at one of the community colleges,” Shotwell recalled. “When that hit me, I'm like ‘Why? Why should he have to do that? Why couldn’t he still enjoy high school and get some of these classes at the same time?’
“That's really when the wheel started turning for me a lot. We need to be offering more for our kids.”
That idea evolved into the Rockingham County High School Public Safety Fire Academy.
According to Superintendent Rodney Shotwell, this graduating class is the first graduating cohort of students from the fire academy at Rockingham County High, health sciences academy at Morehead High and the STEM academy at McMichael High.
As the Class of 2017 goes off into the world, Shotwell had a few parting words.
“For me personally, I've had them for 11 of their 13 years, so they were all in first grade when I became superintendent,” Shotwell said. “When I start thinking about that, it’s really kind of powerful. I've been through their elementary schools, I've been through their middle schools and I've been through their high schools, and now they're getting ready to walk across the stage and start a new chapter of their life.
“I want to say to them how much of an honor it’s been to have them in our schools and I wish them the best of luck as they go to their new chapter in life,” he added. “I want to thank their family and friends for all the support they gave them and gave us to make graduation a reality for everybody there.”