Dec. 30, 2017
By Bob Fowler
Roane State staff writer
As the only student in her high school class to attend Roane State's Middle College in the fall of 2015, Juliann Hopper said her Oliver Spring High classmates initially kidded her about it.
"They kind of gave me a hard time at first, but they got over it, and they now wish they had done Middle College too," Hopper said.
Hopper, 19, is now a junior at Tennessee Tech, majoring in microbiology and well on her way toward a possible career as a research scientist.
She said she'd like to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which awarded her a scholarship to help pay for three of her four Middle College semesters.
Hopper said if she'd enrolled in Tennessee Tech straight out of high school and without her Middle College experience, "I would have had a much more difficult time."
It's still academically challenging at Tech, she said. "It's difficult because I'm in upper division classes, but I'm managing it."
Juliann said she learned about Middle College when she was finishing her sophomore year at Oliver Springs High. It's a small school of about 400 students with some 85 sophomores at the time, she said.
"I only vaguely knew about it (Middle College)," she said. She said she knew of Brandon Buck, who was "a grade ahead of me who had done it."
"I decided to go to one of the meetings about Middle College to see what it was about." She said her parents, Julian and Sherri Hopper, were "really supportive about it.”
"I did it because I wanted more of a challenge."
In Middle College, students go to Roane State in the mornings and then return to their respective high schools in the afternoons. "I was glad to reunite with my friends and finish off the day," Hopper said.
Middle College, a two-year program, was a bit difficult at times, Hopper admitted. "The hard part was adjusting to much more difficult classes and dealing with being away from my friends in high school."
Then there was the half-hour commute from her home to Roane State's Harriman campus.
In her first Middle College semester, "I really struggled in chemistry, but I came out with an 'A,'" she said. "I attribute that to working with other Middle College students in study groups at the library."
She said if one classmate understood a topic more than others, he or she would explain it. "I looked forward to going to the library," she said, "and I made some genuine friends."
She said her favorite Roane State class was U.S. History, taught by Professor Elizabeth Kitts.
Hopper graduated from Roane State with an associate degree and a 3.81 grade point average.
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