Sarah Brown, of Shoemaker High School, receives congratulations Wednesday from Daniel Spencer, of Temple College, at the Texas Bioscience Institute white coat ceremony. The TBI awarded white lab coats to 59 area high school students who will begin the two-year bioscience program when school starts Aug. 27.

TEMPLE — Stepping across the college auditorium stage and fitting into their white lab coats, students assumed a sort of dual academic citizenship.

The Texas Bioscience Institute inducted its seventh Middle College class Wednesday in a ceremonial white coat rite of passage.

During orientation on the Temple College campus earlier in the day, Mark Dohnalik, TBI Middle College coordinator, said the ceremony gathered students from multiple high schools and merged them into one.

“Their colors from all the different schools bleed away and they form one group,” he said.

The high school juniors and seniors from 11 Bell County schools will spend half their school days at the TBI campus in Temple taking college-level bioscience courses.

Of the 59 students beginning their first year in the two-year program, 35 are enrolled in Killeen Independent School District.

At the end of the ceremony, Shoemaker High School junior Eric Dill said he was entering the rigorous program as a precursor to college and studying architectural engineering.

“I expect the total package here — it will be challenging and it will be a fun ride,” he said of his expectations for the two-year program.

“It will be hard,” said Ellison junior Tyana Gross, “but the outcome will be worth it.” She said she was looking forward to earning an associate degree along with her high school diploma.

“I feel privileged to have a chance to get my associate’s degree (through the TBI),” said Cameron Alexander, a Shoemaker junior. “I picture staying up late getting work done. It’s also a good opportunity to make friends.”

During orientation, second-year TBI students helped lead their new classmates. Harker Heights High School senior Zach Snider and Killeen High School senior Storm Boykin worked with one group.

With a year of TBI behind them, the two high school seniors said they were excited to meet the new students. “We enjoy it here more than high school,” Snider said. “We were close to the last class and we want to be close to this class.”

“At first it’s intimidating,” Boykin said of starting the college-level program as a high school junior. “Now, the TBI students are my best friends. I tell people ‘I go to TBI’ instead of ‘I go to Killeen High.’”

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