Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
DeKalb Early College Academy student Michael Smith has turned his talent as sprinter into a full athletics scholarship to Clemson University while staying on the fast track to academic excellence. In May, Smith will graduate from DECA high school and receive an associate degree from Georgia Perimeter College.
“The scholarship, my diploma and my associate degree all mean a lot to me,” said Smith, 17. “It proves to people that you don’t have to enroll in a powerhouse sports high school in order to be successful in track, or on the court, or whatever your sport is. It also shows that DECA is a good program that gives high school students an early jump on college.”
Established through a joint partnership with DeKalb County School System and Georgia Perimeter College, DECA allows gifted high school students to spend their last two years of high school on GPC’s Clarkston Campus, earning high school and college credits through dual enrollment.
“Michael has participated in the Leadership Academy at GPC and a number of other programs the college has to offer,” said Kathryn Hall, DECA program coordinator at Georgia Perimeter. “However, because of National Junior College Athletics Association rules he could not participate in college athletics because he has not yet graduated high school.”
Smith, who began running in the fifth grade, found an alternative. He began running year-round with the Amateur Athletic Union and Track Phi Track Elite Track Club. He competes in the 400-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash, but plans on running the 110-meter hurdles at Clemson University.
Smith is a three time USATF Youth National Champion and has won the AAU Junior Olympics as well as placing in the top five at the AAU Junior Olympics and USATF Youth Nationals throughout his high school career. Smith maintains a 3.0 GPA at Georgia Perimeter.
“For the past two years all my classes have been at Georgia Perimeter,” said Smith who plans on majoring in communications at Clemson. “I’ve taken classes with people who were 18 to 65 years old. It brings a different perspective to the classroom because I get to talk and learn from people who live and work in the real world. My first two years at DECA high school prepared me for the early transition to GPC. I really enjoyed the program.”