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High school students in Cumberland County have been offered an ever-expanding array of choices in education in recent years. Families weigh options such as academic focus, calendar format and even whether their students will attend in person or online.

Luis Mancilla, a 17-year-old boy with dark hair and glasses, stands with his arms crossed smiling at the camera.

Luis Mancilla

Cumberland Polytechnic High School offers a unique choice — the opportunity for students to attend a cooperative innovative high school housed entirely on the Fayetteville campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Students who are accepted into CPHS are dual-enrolled at FTCC, allowing them to complete their high school diploma and a college degree or certificates at the same time for free. CPHS is part of Cumberland County Schools but it’s a school of choice and students must apply to be considered for acceptance.

The experience opens up a number of educational and employment opportunities for students, who could finish high school with an associate degree in hand ready for transfer to a four-year university or for employment in a career field. Through FTCC, CPHS can choose to pursue 54 degree programs or 128 certificates and diplomas.

Students can even opt for a “super senior” year, staying for a 13th year of school to complete or add on to their degrees.

The accelerated program can make for a demanding four years. It can even be a little intimidating at first.

“I thought it was going to be terrible,” says Luis Mancilla, a 2022 CPHS graduate.

Luis can laugh now at the first-year jitters he felt four years ago as a rising freshman. He is one of four CPHS students from the class of 2022 to graduate with an associate degree in engineering. He earned the Cumberland County Schools Outstanding Senior Award for Cumberland Polytechnic.

“Honestly, I think my freshman year was the hardest part, even though you’re not taking any of the college courses yet,” he says. “But they’re trying to get all the regular high school core classes out of the way, so you’ve got all those classes packed in.”

Shayla Battle, a 17-year-old girl with blue hair, stands with her hand on her hip smiling at the camera.

Shayla Battle

Shayla Battle also graduated in 2022 with an associate degree in engineering.

Both Luis and Shayla are bound for N.C. State, with Luis pursuing a bachelor’s in computer engineering and Shayla considering a double-major in mechanical and computer engineering.

Shayla, who attended private school before starting at CPHS, agreed that freshman year was a major transition.

“Freshman year, the workload was a challenge,” she says. “This year, I was taking Calculus III and Physics II, so I have fewer classes but they are still challenging. But this is the area that I’m interested in.”

Shayla’s high school experience wasn’t confined to the classroom. She balanced schoolwork with sports, clubs and events through CPHS, FTCC and the high school in her home district.

“It is what you make it,” Shayla says.