VIDEO: A Student's Life at Gaston Early Coillege

  • Gaston Early College High School student discovers a passion for nursing

    Valerye Kirksey, a senior at Gaston Early College High School, is on a path to a promising career in healthcare.  It is a choice that she says is driven by a series of outstanding academic and volunteer experiences. 

    Kirksey attributes her journey to a high school biology class taught by Lauren Dixon and a Gaston College anatomy and physiology class, both of which ignited a passion for healthcare and inspired her to pursue opportunities in nursing.

    Choosing to attend Gaston Early College High School allowed Kirksey to save time and money by bypassing two years of college schooling and the associated college expenses such as housing and food.  She was able to successfully complete core courses in subjects like math, biology, and chemistry, thanks to the school’s small class sizes, accessible tutoring from her teachers, and support from the instructors at Gaston College. 

    While Kirksey anticipates incurring some student debt upon completing her college education, her school counselor has played a pivotal role in securing scholarships and grants to support her college journey.

    “Gaston Early College High School provided me with an abundance of volunteer opportunities, one being at Carolina Care and Health Rehabilitation, which ultimately led to a full-time job offer,” said Kirksey, who also credits her English teacher, Sharanda Payseur, for instilling crucial planning, organizational, and time management skills to help her balance full-time work and academics.

    Kirksey’s preference for one-on-one patient care became evident after interacting with doctors and nurses during her educational path. She recognized the significance of the personal connection and realized that doctors often lack such an opportunity. Her aspiration to become a nurse anesthetist aligns with her interest in one-on-one care.

    Additionally, Kirksey’s volunteer work at Webb Street School not only improved her patience, but also prepared her for her demanding career choice.  She explained, “I started volunteering during my junior year in Webb Street School’s transition classroom. I helped students with everyday tasks like cooking, laundry, and making dog treats to sell.”

    Jennifer Messer, a teacher in the transition program at Webb Street School, emphasized the importance of Kirksey’s work with students of various abilities and disabilities, the insight she gained, and being able to relate what she was doing to personal connections with others.  Messer said, “The students love having her around, and they’re always thrilled to see her on Fridays.”

    Kirksey is set to graduate in May, earning both her high school diploma and a two-year associate degree from Gaston College.  “Gaston Early College provides a choice between a four-year and a five-year graduation plan.  I opted for the four-year path to graduate alongside my middle school friends, and this option allowed me to complete classes during the summer,” explained Kirksey.

    While Kirksey has not made a final decision about where she will go to college, she is grateful for the unwavering assistance and support she has received from the teachers and staff at Gaston Early College High School.