By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
WARTBURG, Tenn. (August 20, 2020) – Olivia Jones accomplished much during her two years in Roane State’s Middle College program.
Her decision as a sophomore to become the only Wartburg Central High School student to enroll in the ground-breaking program two years ago put her on that path to success. In Middle College, students take college classes in the mornings and return to their high schools in the afternoons to finish studies there.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered the schools’ original May graduation schedules, and Olivia graduated with an associate’s degree from Roane State in July and from Wartburg Central in August.
While attending Roane State’s Middle College, Olivia racked up an impressive list of academic achievements, including consistently making the Dean’s and President’s lists, winning awards in chemistry and psychology, and attaining the college’s prestigious Academic Achievement recognition.
She also became a role model, and that may have been her most notable attainment. Olivia’s 16-year-old sister, Chloe Jones, is now going into Roane State’s Middle College mechatronics program.
“She tried to help me as I studied at home,” Olivia recalled. “She saw how happy I was and how much it paid off for me,” she said of Chloe’s decision to follow in her footsteps.
Now, 18-year-old Olivia will enter Middle Tennessee State University as a junior and be well on her way to obtaining a nursing degree and becoming a nurse anesthetist.
Olivia said she was “very nervous at first” when she decided to enroll in Middle College. She had been looking into Roane State’s dual enrollment program and found out about Middle College. Director David Lane learned of her interest and got her set up for college classes at Roane State’s flagship campus in Harriman, she said.
She joined the Middle College cohort of Roane County high school students, and quickly went from being the only Wartburg Central High student to finding new friends. “I managed to make a lot of friends, and I still keep in contact. We all pushed each other to do our best.”
Of all her Roane State instructors, Olivia said associate chemistry professor Steve Ward was a standout. “He’s very energetic and doesn’t just teach by the textbook. He makes things make sense.”
Another standout educator, Olivia said, was assistant professor Darren York, who teaches psychology courses. ”He’s very witty and has the ability to make you remember things.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Olivia made the transition from in-person classes to online instruction in both high school and Middle College without too much difficulty. But she only got to play two games for the high school girls’ softball team before games were halted, and she missed the last part of her senior year. “Those were the toughest parts,” she said.
“It’s a very rigorous program,” Olivia said of Middle College, “but I would do it over again. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”