WASHINGTON, N.C.— Most students are happy to get one degree. Some strive for two. Travis DeMercurio is working toward three.
The Beaufort County Early College High School (BCECHS) student and future pilot has fueled up his skills with sports, part-time jobs, and numerous student organizations. He is making his final preparations before he takes off this May after graduation.
BCECHS strives to have its graduates earn both an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Science from Beaufort County Community College, but DeMercurio took it upon himself to add a third.
“I got bored one day and was running out of classes, so I started taking business classes,” he says. “I didn’t think I would end up finishing it, but with the amount of classes I’m taking, it just kind of happened.”
Feeling that he had been overlooked when he was younger, DeMercurio rejoices in showing that he is capable. He is taking so many classes this semester that he had to get special administrative permission.
He enjoyed his business classes, and his professor Cynthia King encouraged him to join the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge. The project paired a team from Beaufort County Community College with a team from Iraq to learn global collaboration in order to tackle an environmental issue.
“Their situation isn’t what is portrayed by our media,” he says. “Before, I thought that they had all these rules. It had to be one way or no way. I thought that everything had been torn down, but they had a lot of tools and education. They’re not as strict on rules. They have a lot of freedom to themselves.”
DeMercurio plans to transfer to a university, but his plan has two very divergent options. In plan one, he would attend William Peace University in Raleigh to study game design. William Peace offers game design as a major and requires an internship that connects students to local businesses.
In plan two, he would study to become a pilot through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. All graduates of the university also earn a commercial pilot’s license. At Embry-Riddle he would have the option to pursue a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
In addition to these college plans, he plans to join the U.S. Air Force as a way of funding his education.
Though he has never flown a plane before, he thinks he would enjoy the freedom and thrill of flying jets. “Flying has just been one of my passions,” he says. “I think I get it from my uncle. He’s an adrenaline junkie. He lives in California, and he paraglides–like cliff jumping. He does triathlons. He’s taking classes for his commercial pilot’s license.”
Rarely slowing down, DeMercurio is heavily involved on campus. He is the parliamentarian for the Student Government Association, a member of Gamma Beta Phi–BCCC’s honor society, the BCCC Environmental Alliance, and part of his high school’s prom committee. After losing by one vote for SGA president, he stepped back in his leadership roles across campus, and instead embraced participating and socializing in the organizations.
“I enjoy them, and I have fun collaborating with other students,” he says. “That’s the main way I spend my free time. I used to hate talking to people. Now I like it.”
He brings a fresh perspective to how things are done, unbothered by meeting new people or winding up in a new place.
“I always think the opposite of people. I always did; I always will,” he says. “I’ll look at something and ask, ‘Why are we doing it this way?’”
He has navigated college and student organizations alongside part-time jobs and sports. He currently works as a lifeguard at the Moore Aquatic Center, which came out of his participation on a local swim team. The swim team helped fulfill his desire to stay active while at BCECHS, filling a gap of multiple sports in his life that the high school does not offer.
“At first it was horrible, but then I realized what I could get out of it,” he reflects. “I took that as my motivation to stay here.”
To balance these multiple commitments, he packs his classes towards the front of the week, so he has time later in the week to work on assignments. Many of his classes are online, which allows him to work around his schedule of work and clubs.
“Sometimes I take days off, sleep in until 3:00, be on my game all day, or go fishing. Just get my mind off of it, clear my mind,” he says.
This relaxation should not be misconstrued for avoidance. DeMercurio is dedicated to proving those who underestimate him wrong. When he needs to, he perseveres. “One of the hardest things I had to learn was to push through it. Anyone can do it; some people just don’t want to.”
“I’ll be walking into the club thinking, ‘I don’t want to be here, I’m tired of this, I want to go home, I have to work after this,’ but I just push through it,” he says. “I feel like the outcome is better than the current moment. You have to look at not how bad is this right now, but how good it’s going to be in the future, and sometimes I do something in the present that might not be good later. You always have to look at what’s better.”
With his drive and commitment, be it student clubs or academic success, the sky is the limit for DeMercurio.