Two students make graduation walk a year early

After four long years of high school, seniors are graduating June 14, but two students walking across that stage after only three years are seniors Ellen Gulian and Kenya Allison.

The high-achieving ladies, who are also in the top five percent of their class, knew that being here another year would not serve them well. They complained they were getting bored in classes and were ready to start their college career. “I already knew deep down, this is something I had to do,” Gulian says. “It was hard, but I knew that it was the right decision.”

Last summer, both girls committed to early graduation. For Allison, the decision depended not on herself, but on convincing her parents. She had wanted to graduate early since middle school, when she met an early graduate, but her parents’ answer was “no” until she laid out the consequences of her being forced to stay another year. “I was bored. When I get bored, I just won’t do it. My grades would’ve been trash. My mind was set on graduating.“

Meanwhile, Gulian realized that the expectations put upon her to graduate early, like her older brother had done, were not misplaced. Originally, she wanted to forge her own path, to not follow in his footsteps, but Gulian came around last August. Her boredom with classes as the year progressed affirmed her choice. “If this is how bored I am this year, next year is going to be…such a waste of time for me, when I could be getting started on undergraduate research and… my major” says Gulian.

The girls, who were sophomores just last year, took extra classes to fill their graduation requirements. Gulian took an English 12 as an online pathway to early graduation program this January and finished a few weeks ago. Allison doubled up on English classes, taking both AP Lit and AP Lang this year.

Allison and Gulian also found that the opportunity to skip a full year of high school came with drawbacks to the relationships they have made at Blake. The two share a sense of longing to remain with the close friends they made at Blake who will stay next year as seniors, but ultimately, their graduation is their first priority.“I am sad to leave some of my friends behind, but I am ready to move on,” Allison says.

After graduation, the two will officially be incoming freshmen at their respective colleges. Gulian will pursue a physics and computer science double major with a minor in mathematics at UMBC with the Meyerhoff Scholars program: a highly selective cohort of students interested in STEM careers. Meanwhile, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Allison will strive to earn her bachelor’s degree in either a biomedical science or mechanical engineering as she trains to enlist in the US Navy.

Allison will also present the keynote student speech at the graduation ceremony, a controversy among seniors since she has not been with them all four years. “I am hoping once people hear my speech that they will hear what I am saying and not the fact that I am graduating early,” says Allison.