When graduates take to the stage on June 6 to receive their high school diplomas, one member of the class of 2012 will already have graduated—from college.
Andre Keyser, 17, will earn his associate's degree from the Community College of Baltimore County three days before the Overlea senior is recognized as a high school graduate and the Overlea class of 2012 valedictorian.
He said that after not having a full-time math teacher as a middle school student in Baltimore City, he enrolled in an algebra class at in Towson.
"I did really well in that class and then I set up a course plan for high school—I decided 'I can start going to CCBC Essex in my 10th grade year and do math courses to better prepare me for my college career'," Keyser said. "The amount of credits I would be accruing was almost 60 credits. Because of that I said why don't I just finish the whole thing."
And that's just what he did. Now, two years later, a portion of his college career is already over.
Keyser will start at the University of Maryland in the fall, where he plans to pursue a dual degree in mathematics and French.
"I haven’t decided yet whether I want to go and work for the federal government or whether I want to teach first," Keyser said.
On weekdays during his junior year, Keyser went to class at Overlea from 11:45 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. and then to CCBC Essex from 5:45 until 10 p.m. He also spent the time between tutoring other students in math and English, participating in extracurricular activities and taking classes on the weekends. But despite the rigorous schedule, he's going to miss Overlea High and said he has no regrets.
"It wasn’t easy. Sometimes you’re not going to have eight hours of sleep, sometimes you’re not gonna be able to go out with your friends every night. It’s sacrifice but at the same time when you keep that goal that you have in mind it keeps you balanced in a sense," Keyser said.
Overlea High will miss him too. William Willis, the head of the school's Academy of Finance program, said that Keyser was an excellent student and instrumental in recruiting new students to the magnet program.
"He’s extremely bright and a take charge type guy; we probably couldn’t have made it through the year, especially the recruiting season, without his help. He went on most of our trips to middle schools to talk about the program, how much he’s learned and how much he’s going to be able to use it in college and business," Willis said.
Overlea's principal, Elizabeth Parker, shared Willis' view of Keyser.
"Andre is a remarkable student; both motivated by academics as well as school spirit. I was amazed at the level of his perception, his conversation, and his focus. I challenged him to make a difference and he did! Overlea is fortunate to have had him and he will be sorely missed," she said in an email to Patch.
No one could be more proud of Keyser, though, than his mother Angela Keith.
"Of course I’m proud of his accomplishments and what he’s doing, I think that my intention ever since he was a little boy was to make sure that he was well-rounded," Keith said.
"I just hope that he continues to work hard. I think that we live in a community—getting involved, being of good service, trying to help everybody do better. That’s what we’re here for."
For his part, Keyser said the will to succeed was instilled early on.
He talked about the three institutions of learning as described to him by his mother: the home, the school and the church, he said.
"All of those work together to produce who I am. It started with my mother showing me how to be independent and have that take charge personality," Keyser said. "The things that I got from school; that academic side, reading writing math all those things. What I got in church, those moral values in addition to what I got from home. All those things intermixed and gave me that final package—this is what I'm gonna do and this is where I'm gonna go."
And his advice for the incoming freshman class?
"Don’t take high school for granted—the reason I say that is: you go to class every day, you sit in those classes, you transition between those classes. You go home, you go to sleep, that’s it. That’s what a lot of typical students do," Keyser said. "They go to school, go home and repeat the process over. Make it worthwhile. If you’re gonna do it make it over the top. If you’re not gonna make it over the top it doesn’t have any significance. When you get to the end you'll regret that you didn’t go far and beyond."