Matthew McKenzie, 14, (right) jokes with Whitney Durrance (left) before the 2018 Chattahoochee Technical College commencement ceremony in Cartersville, Thursday, May 10, 2018. This year, Matthew, a Cobb County resident, is the youngest graduate from Chattahoochee Technical College. His mother, Monique McCord, home-schooled him since second grade and used a waiver from the college to dual-enroll Matthew. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

The graduate: 14-year-old Cobb student earns associate degree

Matthew McKenzie’s black graduation gown for his college commencement was a little oversized.

Well, he turned 14 last month.

Matthew, who lives in the Acworth area, received his associate degree Thursday from Chattahoochee Technical College. He enrolled there two years ago, taking classes as part of the state’s dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to get college credits. Matthew was home-schooled.

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Matthew is the youngest student to earn a degree (interdisciplinary studies) this year from the Technical College System of Georgia. He also received a technical specialist certificate.

“It proves there is nothing you cannot do,” said Matthew, explaining his motivation.

Matthew actually had to get a waiver to attend the college because he was too young to enroll there, said his mother, Monique McCord. Mom learned about the program and encouraged her son to try taking the courses.

“I’ve been given the opportunity to do something big, so what was the worse that could happen,” Matthew thought.

Matthew finished classwork faster than the other kids, his mother said. McCord said she did research on accelerated learning and began home-schooling Matthew in the second grade after school officials declined to skip him to a higher grade.

“Educationally, he’s always been ahead,” she said. “I felt like it would be a disservice to stop him.”

Matthew quickly stood out on campus. The bulk of its students are between ages of 25 and 44. Matthew said the greatest adjustment to college life was being in classrooms because he had been home-schooled.

Chattahoochee Tech had about 2,500 dual-enrollment students in 2017, a record, according to its most recent annual report. Amy Ward, who taught Matthew in U.S. History and World History, said he’s well-prepared and highly-motivated, characteristics she sees in many dual-enrollment students.

“He was eager to learn,” she said.

The two talked frequently about college preparedness and career goals.

Matthew’s next stop? Kennesaw State University, to attain his bachelor’s degree. He’s planning to major in biochemistry.

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