By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
A Morgan County native who has made education his career is the new director of Roane State’s Middle College program.
Aaron Jones, former principal of the 400-student Wartburg Central High School, started his new position in May. He’s based at the community college’s flagship campus in Roane County and will be traveling throughout Roane State’s service area, meeting with high school students who are prospective Middle College candidates.
Middle College is for high-achieving high school students who take both high school and college classes for two years and receive a high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time.
Jones was a teacher at Wartburg Central for 12 years and then served as assistant principal for two years before becoming principal, a post he held for the past five years.
He said he became intrigued by the job opening for Middle College director after witnessing the program’s impact on students. “It opens a tremendous amount of opportunities for them,” Jones said.
His new job, he added, “is going to be a great challenge.”
“We are excited to welcome Aaron to the Roane State family and his new position,” said Dr. Diane Ward, Roane State’s vice president for student learning.
After graduating from Wartburg Central, Jones enrolled in Roane State but transferred to Tennessee Tech before completing coursework. His wife Jennifer had just graduated from Roane State, and they both wanted to enroll at Tech, Jones said.
She is currently a counselor in the Morgan County School System. The couple has a son, Blake, who is a quartermaster with the U.S. Navy and stationed in San Diego.
Jones received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Tennessee Tech, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Bethel University, and an education specialist degree (Ed.S.) in instructional leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.
As the Middle College director, Jones said he’ll be providing support for students. “The transition from being a high school student to taking college classes can be quite the adjustment. I’ll be helping them with any issues and providing advice.”
At first, Jones said, he’ll be visiting area high schools that participate in the Middle College program to introduce himself “and get to know the staff at the schools we serve.”
Prospective Middle College students must have a high grade-point average as well as good ACT scores. The state recently passed a law that provides grants of $2,000 per semester to offset tuition and other fees for Middle College students.
Middle College was launched at Roane State in 2014, and enrollment has steadily increased. Sixteen high schools in the region now participate. There are 89 students entering their second year of Middle College next semester, and Jones said he expects there will be a similar number of first-year students.
Roane State just wrapped up a series of informational meetings at the end of May for students who are planning to attend Middle or Early College this fall. Anyone unable to attend those meetings can schedule an alternate session by contacting the Middle College office.
Contact information and additional details on qualifications for Middle College can be found online at roanestate.edu/middlecollege.