High school graduations are running a little later than usual in central North Carolina thanks to the pandemic but most are wrapping up today.
One Durham graduate has a remarkable story of reaching a special milestone even before she turned her tassel.
The 17-year-old earned a two-year college degree and an Internet Technology Certificate before she graduated from high school.
"I decided, 'You know what? I want to be at the top of my class.' And the only way for me to move up in the ranks, was to take higher level courses," Ammanuela Antione said.
So, back in 2019 when she was a sophomore, she started taking classes at Durham Tech through a partnership with her school, New Tech High at Hillside.
"My entire family background is really based upon trying your hardest and being the absolute best you can be," Antoine said. She said she set her sights on being the first Durham Tech student to earn both a two-year associate's degree and an IT certificate before getting a high school diploma and all the while still doing community service work and extracurricular activities.
Her college advisor, Jillian Davis, thought it was an ambitious undertaking.
"I told her at that time, 'Ammanuela this is gonna be a difficult task.'"
Ammanuela's response floored her.
"I remember it just like it was yesterday, 'I am willing to do whatever it takes'", Davis said. "And with that statement alone, I was like, 'Okay, this is the girl, so we're gonna make this happen.'"
And although Antoine did achieve that goal, it turned out to be harder than even her advisor had imagined.
That's because a year into it the pandemic struck and delays threw off the scheduling.
"I did not get a lot of sleep," the teen said. "Less than five hours on average, definitely."
That's why she is dedicating her summer to getting good sleep before she enrolls at UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall in order to get her psychology degree by 2023 and then, you guessed it, more education.
"I will be 19 when I first start med school," Antoine said.
"I am so proud of the work that she has done, and her accomplishments. And I know she's gonna do amazing things going forward," Davis said.
Although humble about her accomplishments and being a role model, Antione is proud of her efforts and has advice for other young people who may follow in her footsteps.
"As long as you have the people around you to help you stay strong, and you have that initial core belief that you yourself can do it, it will happen," she said.
She plans to become a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders.
And a career helping others would be a surprise to no one who knows her.