TEMPLE — They woke up earlier than most and engaged a more challenging curriculum than most, and on Wednesday they celebrated their high achievement.
The braided silver cords 41 Central Texas students received marked a sort of beginning of a season of graduation ceremonies, but it’s likely a mere prelude for many awards to come.
The Texas Bioscience Institute students, all high school seniors, are set to earn diplomas in coming months.
While navigating high school, they completed two years of college-level bioscience studies. To receive the cord, the busy students managed to log at least 16 hours of job shadowing, 16 hours of community service and advanced research.
Out of the 41 cord recipients, 26 attend Killeen Independent School District schools and 35 will earn associate degrees, making them college graduates before they are high school graduates. They celebrated the accomplishment in a ceremony at the Mary Alice Marshall Performing Arts Center on the Temple College campus.
“It means everything,” said Shoemaker High School senior Bryonna Douglas after receiving the cord she will wear with her cap and gown at commencement ceremonies.
She and fellow Shoemaker seniors Shakira Wingate and Eric Dill said they regularly got up at 5 in the morning to catch a bus at 6 to travel from their school in Killeen to the Temple campus to take part in the dual-credit program.
“It’s such an honor,” Douglas said. “We’ve worked so hard. It means everything to us.”
Dill said he took part in athletics his first two years of high school, but dropped that to free up time to participate in TBI and band.
This year he was a Shoemaker drum major in the band and he is headed to University of North Texas to study music.
“This is a great accomplishment and a sigh of relief, too,” Dill said. “It’s a lot more work than regular high school. It’s a huge honor and I feel very proud.”
“You chose a difficult path and have worked long hours,” said Temple College president Glenda Barron, addressing the silver cord recipients. “Those who have come before you have said it was the best choice they could have made.” Dr. Heather Francis, Texas A&M assistant professor in the Digestive Disease Research Center, told students and guests she sees firsthand the high caliber of TBI students in her lab. “They are outstanding. They are willing to work. They are thrust in with technicians and post-doctoral fellows and they jump right in. They are the cream of the crop.”
A scientist who started her career in a Scott & White lab testing rats and mice, Francis said the TBI gives high school students a chance to build a resume that can lead to a career dedicated to extending life and eliminating disease.
Douglas has a scholarship to attend Baylor University and plans to continue to medical school and to become an orthopedic surgeon. “It gives you real hands-on experience. The chemistry and biology really prepares you for the medical lab.”
“It’s been amazing,” she said of the two years at TBI and a summer internship she completed.