Two 17-year-old high school graduates reflect on graduating early and their career goals.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Thousands of high school students graduated from the Volusia and Flagler counties school systems last week.
Among them were best friends Melinda Jeffries-Beamon and Charnee Irvin, both 17 year-olds who graduated from Atlantic High School in Port Orange on May 28. They both skipped their junior years and graduated early. The grads will be attending schools in different cities come fall.
“I was really nervous but excited and anxious during graduation. My family motivated me to graduate early, plus I was ready to leave high school,” Melinda told the Daytona Times.
Charnee echoed, “Melinda actually decided upon it first. She told me about it, and I agreed to do it as well. I was also ready to get to college.”
The graduates took on additional challenges to walk the stage early. Extra classes, double classes and online classes were all part of the deal.
“It was a lot more work at first. I just took multiple subjects. I took two English classes together,” Charnee explained.
Melinda will attend Florida A&M University (FAMU) in the fall; Charnee will attend Daytona State College.
Raised by grands
The new grads also have another thing in common. Although they grew up around their parents, they were raised by their grandparents.
Charnee is the granddaughter of longtime City of Daytona Beach employee Keith Willis and his late wife, Kim.
“Charnee was a great kid. She actually got into sports later. Her mom and dad were also around helping us,” Willis said.
Melinda was raised by Frankie and Mutrice Beamon.
“Melinda’s parents were just young and not really ready to be parents. We’ve had her all her life.
She’s just like one of my children even though her mom always been around,” Mrs. Beamon told the Times.
Dad was there
The Beamons officially adopted Melinda about two years ago.
Melinda also dealt with her father being incarcerated most of her life, but he was recently released and able to see her graduate.
“I grew up with my grandparents who were strict, but they spoiled me. I also always had my mom,” she remarked.
Mrs. Beamon added, “They were pretty happy together during graduation. I don’t think it bothered her much after a while, plus they always communicated over the years.”
Melinda graduated with a 3.75 grade point average and cum laude honors. She will attend FAMU with a full Take Stock in Children scholarship.
According to its website, Take Stock in Children was established in 1995 as a non-profit organization in Florida that provides an opportunity for deserving low-income students, many from minority families, to escape the cycle of poverty through education.
The program’s comprehensive services start in middle school, continue through high school and include the students’ transition into college.
‘B’ brings tears
Melinda, who also was accepted into Spelman College in Atlanta and Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, will study psychology at FAMU. She wants to become a psychologist.
“I had a scholarship to Spelman, but the scholarship to FAMU is better. I want to help people. I want to talk to people. I like to know what they think, why we do things we do,” she explained.
Melinda noted that she didn’t find finishing high school a year earlier too much of a challenge.
“I don’t think it was tough. I already had most of my credits. I often got bored in classes. Well, maybe math was tough. I took one of the classes online and had to teach myself. I made a B. I was upset. I cried. It was my first B ever,’’ she remarked.
The B grade was confirmed by her grandmother.
Mrs. Beamon commented, “I remember it. It was her first B ever. She was so upset. I still have the report card.”
Daytona State bound
Charnee graduated with a 3.0 grade point average and played girls flag football at Atlantic High this year.
In the fall, she will attend Daytona State College and plans to transfer to FAMU in the spring. She will study physical therapy.
“I am concerned because she is just so young. We want her to get the degree at Daytona State first,” said Willis, her grandfather.
Charnee and Melinda can’t quite recall when they really became besties.
“She is a wonderful, hard-working and very smart person, but in middle school she didn’t like me,” Charnee offered.
Countered Melinda, “I don’t know about that. I thought we were friends in eighth-grade Spanish class.’’
Mrs. Beamon is confident that the good friends will be just fine as they move on to pursue their college degrees.
“We will probably cry and cut the fool when Melinda leaves, but she’ll be fine. We have a grandson going to the state college in Tallahassee. He will also be transferring to FAMU. Melinda also has a grandfather living in Tallahassee. It’s exciting,’’ she added.