Donated photo. Kayleigh McAlister (pictured), Haywood Community College 2013 associate in arts and Haywood Early College graduate, knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in second grade. She is now in her second year as a teacher at Canton Middle School.


Kayleigh McAlister, 2013 Haywood Early College and Haywood Community College associate in arts graduate, knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in second grade. She is now in her second year as a teacher at Canton Middle School, living out her dream career and inspiring her students to believe that they can do whatever they decide to do.

“School gave me something to be hopeful for,” McAlister explains. “Education gives you so many possibilities for a great future.”

Being the first in her family to get a college degree, McAlister is a perfect example to her seventh-grade students. “As a teacher, I can give back. I want my students to know that they all have the potential to be successful.”

McAlister was able to finish both a high school diploma and an associate degree in four years at HCC. She applied to Western Carolina University in her junior year. In 2016, she completed a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education and is now working on a master’s degree.

“Early College and HCC provided a nice bridge for me,” McAlister says. “I knew I was getting the education I needed and not just doing busy work. I had a lot more freedom than traditional high school, which taught me how to prioritize and work hard to be prepared for class.”

In addition, McAlister says that when she started WCU, she knew what to expect. She knew how to go through the registration process and exactly what classes she needed to take to stay on track.

At HCC, McAlister was in Phi Theta Kappa honor society and Early College student government association. She also helped start the early college mentoring program where upperclassmen mentor new students to help navigate through the tough high school years.

McAlister now serves on the advisory board for the education department at WCU.

“While I have this opportunity to give back through the classroom, I get so much in return. The reward is far greater than what you actually earn.”

For more information about the Haywood Early College program, please call 828-565-4000. For more information about HCC’s associate in arts college transfer program, please call 828-627-4579 or visit

HCC registration for summer and fall semesters is underway now through April 27 for both new and continuing students. With a variety of associate, diploma, and certificate programs to choose from, students can take the first step in realizing that education changes everything. Career counseling services are available for guidance. For more information on enrollment, programs of study or financial aid, call 828.627.2821 or visit