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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Montay McDaniel
High School junior Montay McDaniel will graduate City College in May with an AA in Behavioral Studies. He will graduate high school and Sacramento State next year with a bachelor’s degree. Photo by Sara Nevis | Staff Photographer | [email protected]

by Katelin Lopez | Guest Writer

The plan is the same for most—attend high school and graduate with a high school diploma. Then, the college years can start. Most high school students don’t concern themselves with college plans until their parents start nagging and the school pushes SAT prep down their throats.

There is one high school junior who has been planning well past his senior year and looking into the future since he was a freshman. When Montay McDaniel II graduates high school next year, he will be one of the few high school students in California who will graduate with not just one, but three college degrees.

The City College student takes classes at two other campuses: The Met Sacramento High School and Sacramento State. With the support of his family and his own self-determination, McDaniel, who just turned 17, will graduate with A.A. degrees in behavioral studies and in communication studies, and a bachelor’s in athletic training. He will be able to apply for master’s programs in his field when he finishes high school. The two colleges he’s looking at? Azusa Pacific and California State University, Long Beach.

His schedule is filled to the brim throughout the week. There’s high school. When he’s at City College, McDaniel takes mass media, as well as argumentation and debate. When he’s on the Sacramento State campus, he’s enrolled in jogging and Caribbean dance.

But it’s nothing he can’t handle. His high school has helped prepare him. It’s a small school—only about 300 students. The Met Sacramento High School differs from conventional high schools in the way that it’s structured. The charter school has students come to the campus three days a week and work at internships the other two days.

Because the class sizes are small, The Met allows the students to create meaningful relationships with each other and their advisers. The goal of the school is to shape motivated leaders, and McDaniel is embracing that idea with open arms.

Besides his academic achievements, McDaniel is just like any other high school student. With a wide smile on his face and poster in-hand, he asked his girlfriend of four months to their junior prom. His poster was covered with bubbled letters that displayed lyrics from their favorite song, “Best Friend” by indie artist Rex Orange County. With one look at it, she couldn’t help but say, “yes.”

A big part of McDaniel’s life is his faith. He and his family attend church every Sunday at Bayside Midtown Church in Sacramento. McDaniel is a student leader every Wednesday for the church youth group.

His devotion to the church stems from what his mother, Arrickia McDaniel, calls their four pillars:  faith, family, education and character. And McDaniel’s family means a lot to him.

McDaniel is the middle child, sandwiched between two sisters. He’s also not the first to graduate high school with more than one diploma. His older sister, Jay’Riah Thomas, set the standard first. She graduated high school with a couple of associate’s degrees under her belt, thanks to their mom’s motto of “education first.”

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His mother grew up in Oakland, California. She used her experience in the foster care system as a driving force behind her belief in the power of education and character.

“One of the foster parents that she grew up with was like, ‘No matter what you do in life, make education the first thing,’” her son says. “She kept that with her, and she put that in me, so that’s kind of my motto in life.”

McDaniel’s mother tells her story.

“Like many at-risk students, I struggled with both academics and being of good character,” Arrickia McDaniel says. “I learned that character opened doors of relationships, and education created opportunities for success. That was my escape, and as a parent, that has been the driving force behind our family’s academic achievement.”

She now hangs four degrees, including a doctorate, on her walls at home.

While he’s been attending college classes for the last three years, McDaniel admits that sometimes being the youngest in the room can be intimidating. He does his best to blend in by observing and mimicking behavior.

“I really look up to everyone here,” he says. “They know about the college experience. I’m looking at everything they do and picking up what they do.”

This technique has been working. McDaniel also doesn’t let his youth stop him from raising his hand.

“I always thought he gave very good insight and participated in class discussions,” says Taylor Elgin, a classmate in McDaniel’s City College mass media class. “I didn’t realize he had so much going on.”

His achievements have not come without adversity. McDaniel has suffered the loss of five close family members in the past few years. However, like his spirit animal the phoenix, he emerged from the tragedies stronger and more focused.

“I’m doing it for the people that are here now supporting me, but those people that aren’t there anymore, I do it for them.”

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