TEMPLE — There’s no football team, student council or electives of any kind, but it would be difficult to overstate the excitement at this secondary campus.

It’s neither high school nor college, but a mix of the two that continues to grow and thrive, largely because of the commitment of the Killeen Independent School District.

Ironically, it’s physically located in Temple making it the least convenient campus for high school students in Killeen to attend.

Popular program

Still, the Texas Bioscience Institute’s Middle College program is hugely popular among Killeen ISD students who qualify to attend.

The program is in its eighth year with 79 high school juniors deep into their first semester of the two-year science-centered curriculum.

TBI coordinator Kristen Griffith said students love it and they have recruited their friends.

Parents also love it when their sons and daughters complete a year or two of college and in most cases earn an associate’s degree from Temple College in the same month they graduate from high school.

Students from Killeen ISD’s four high schools make up 57 of the program’s 79 juniors this year. In all, the students represent 12 schools in Bell County, including private schools and some who are homeschooled.

The Middle College has a total of 118 students this year.

“It’s looking great,” Griffith said, noting that some of the high school students who took part in the institute’s summer research project have been invited to study further.

“This is a unique environment because it combines high school and college,” she said. “They get a lot more freedom than they get in high school, but there is still support.”

Get associate’s degree

Most of the second-year students are on track to receive their associate’s degree at the end of the spring semester.

Juniors take biology, chemistry, college algebra and English composition. Seniors take anatomy and physiology, biotechnology, calculus and British literature.

On most Fridays, students hear a lecture from college-level professors or professionals in a science-related career field.

Killeen ISD students have the option of traveling by bus to the Temple campus. The school district also pays for all student fees, including books.

While getting a jump on college is a big deal for a teenager pondering medical school, the high school students seem just as thrilled to take on the responsibility of a rigorous workload.

The early mornings are a challenge, Shoemaker High School senior Shakira Wingate said. “It’s worth it, though.”

Professors at the Temple College west campus teach differently from high school teachers, she said, noting the freedom and responsibility that comes with being in a college program.

Prepare for careers

Wingate participated in the summer research offering, an experience she said would influence her career choice.

She has long believed she would attend medical school, but now is applying to the University of Chicago with plans to major in international studies and pathology, maybe join the Peace Corps and eventually work to eradicate diseases in third-world countries.

“Before, I thought about medical school,” she said. “Now, I’m centered on something specific.”

Jeremy Wall, also a Shoemaker High School senior, said the lab work at TBI is more about friends working together than it is about going to school.

“It’s cool having a group of people to share common interests,” he said. “We laugh in the lab. It’s a good experience. I know a little now of what I’ll do in college.”

Wall said he had to get used to relying on a few projects to make up a semester grade, but that now he likes the responsibility of maintaining the heavy workload.

He’s considering attending Cornell University and studying biochemistry.

“This is exactly what I want to pursue,” he said. “I like the schedule that goes with research.”

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