McIntosh junior Emma Widtfeldt prepares for graduation

Emma Widtfeldt. Photo/Special.

For most high school seniors in Fayette County, these next few days will mark the end of a very long journey. Nearly 13 years ago, each started kindergarten with the goal in mind of graduating from high school. The accomplishment of that goal is now just days away as they prepare to don caps and gowns and receive their long awaited high school diplomas.

One member of the McIntosh High School junior class is also preparing to walk across the dais to receive her diploma on May 25th.

Emma Widtfeldt started not quite 12 years ago at Kedron Elementary, transferred to Crabapple Lane Elementary when it opened a few years later, and continued through JC Booth Middle School and eventually on to McIntosh. Her progression was much the same as most of her classmates for the first 11 years.

About half way through her sophomore year, however, Emma began talking to her parents about how she wished she could finish up with high school and move on to college sooner.

After visiting with Mrs. Hope Huey, her guidance counselor, and Mrs. Lisa Fine, the McIntosh principal, Emma and her parents learned that Georgia offers a dual enrollment program for high school students called ACCEL, which allows them to take both high school and college courses concurrently at Georgia state sponsored universities (http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/CTAE/Docu...).

Clayton State University has a Fayette County campus just off North Peachtree Parkway in Peachtree City that offers most of the courses the Fayette County Board of Education allows a high school student to apply toward required graduation credit.

Emma’s goal from the start was to be able to finish high school a full year early. Mrs. Huey told her that previous students had taken college courses and graduated a semester early, but she was unaware of any who had graduated a year ahead of schedule.

With Mrs. Fine’s approval, a plan was drawn up that would require Emma to complete four university level classes at Clayton State, four high school level classes online through Brigham Young University’s Independent Study Program (http://is.byu.edu/site/programs/HighSchoolProgram.cfm), as well as five classes per semester at McIntosh.

It was an aggressive plan, but on paper, at least, it looked like it would be possible. FCBOE requires all graduating seniors to complete 23 credits, with each semester class counting as half a credit. University courses completed through the ACCEL program are valued at a full credit, so one semester of freshman English taken at CSU completed the FCBOE requirement for a full year of twelfth grade English. The same was also true with the Government, Economics, and Math courses Emma completed at CSU.

Emma finished her sophomore year at McIntosh with 12 credits and needed a minimum of 11 more for graduation. The plan that Mrs. Huey and Mrs. Fine crafted would allow Emma to earn four credits at Clayton State, two credits through BYU’s Independent Study, and five credits at McIntosh.

The CSU courses were offered in the morning from 7:50 to 9:05 a.m. two days a week, so Emma took one class on Monday and Wednesday, and another on Tuesday and Thursday, and then she would drive to McIntosh in time for second period.

After school she was involved with two of the three drama productions McIntosh put on this past year, including being cast in the lead role in “Caucasian Chalk Circle,” which took first place in the Region 3-AAAA One Act Play Competition and for which Emma was awarded Best Actress in the State Competition a month later.

She was also among the first hired last summer at Loco FroYo and worked part-time until she was cast in the McIntosh spring musical “Into the Woods,” at which point she decided she finally had too much on her plate and gave up her job.

By the end of last December, Emma was right on track with her program and was carrying a 3.94 GPA at McIntosh. As of today every indication is that she will achieve her goal and be walking in her cap and gown, as she had hoped, a year early.

If you were to ask Emma if completing two years of studies in one year was hard, she would say without hesitating, “Yes!” Every high school student has nights when it seems each class has a paper or project due the next day and long hours are required to get it all accomplished.

For her, those nights were doubled. She would also say, without question, the work was worth the reward. In February, Emma learned she has been admitted to Brigham Young University and, this fall, will move into the dorms in Provo, Utah, within minutes of her two brothers and sister, all of whom she has missed very much.

She will be pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Acting and has been awarded a partial-tuition merit scholarship from BYU’s Theater and Media Arts Department.