Most students who graduated from Chattahoochee Technical College this month had long had their high school diplomas in hand, but Cheyanne Head hadn't even seen hers yet.
Head, 18, participated in CTC's dual-enrollment program and accepted her diploma in air conditioning technology during commencement ceremonies May 10 at the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville, nine days before receiving her high school diploma from Woodland High School.
"It feels unbelievable and amazing," she said of graduating from college before high school.
The Cartersville resident said she entered the dual-enrollment program because she "needed a push."
"I wanted to do more than what I was doing," she said.
But attending two schools at the same time takes a lot of self-discipline.
"My experience with doing both drained me completely," she said. "You have 10 times the work, and you have to push yourself. Some days you have to push harder than other days."
In her HVAC courses, Head was the only female in a class of nine.
"It was just like having eight brothers," she said. "They treated me like one of the guys. The HVAC class is just one big family."
Though she ultimately wants to be a mechanic, Head said she chose the air conditioning technology program to "find more knowledge in a well-known, needed workforce."
"It’s something to fall back on," she said, noting it also would "make it easier to work on that for cars."
The daughter of Kimberly Jones and Roger Head said she got interested in automotive technology after she "spent a few hours in a machine shop, taking apart engines."
"I just studied it on my own [for a few years]," she said. "A friend of mine went to college for it, and I would read their book almost every day. Other things I would study by watching videos or volunteering in mechanic shops."
Head said she plans to further her automotive knowledge by studying to be a wheeled-vehicle mechanic in the U.S. Army, in which she enlisted Dec. 14, 2017.
"I want knowledge in every part of automotive that I can get," she said.
Being a soldier is something Head has wanted to do since she was a child.
"I chose this route because at [age] 5, I would always tell everyone, 'I’m an Army princess,' then as the years progressed, my mind never changed," she said. "I wanted to join. I guess it’s because my entire family is a military family."
Head said she has a mandatory stint of eight years in the Army, "but I want to stay in even after that."
"I’m just letting time take its course," she said.
Chattahoochee Tech had 445 students receive technical certificates of credit, diplomas or Associate of Applied Science degrees from 45 programs of study in the college’s six-county service area during two commencement ceremonies.
The most popular areas of study were programs in health sciences, followed by business, including accounting and business management; and public and professional services, including cosmetology, air conditioning technology and early childhood care and education.
CTC President Dr. Ron Newcomb commended all graduating students for their diligence and determination.
“Today is a celebration of what our graduates have accomplished as well as a celebration of the skills and knowledge they have gained in order to take that next step in life – whether it is entering the workforce or pursuing even higher education,” he said in a press release. “We are very proud of how Chattahoochee Tech faculty and staff guide our students on paths to successful and bright futures.”