By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
High school senior Bethany Breakall, 18, was afraid that college students would be able to tell she wasn’t one of them.
“But, I just kind of fit right in there,” said Bethany, who is a student in Middle College at Eastern Kentucky University.
Middle College, a collaboration between Madison County Schools and EKU, allows high school juniors and seniors to receive both high school and college credits, all in a university campus setting.
Middle College students must take high school courses with the program’s two teachers. However, they also are required to take one college class per semester their junior year and two courses per semester their senior year.
While enrolled in Middle College, a student has the potential to earn 18 hours of college credit before graduation.
But, Bethany did not join Middle College until her senior year, having just enrolled in public school one year before.
Bethany and her three younger siblings were all home schooled until the 2011-12 school year. One sibling joined first grade, another fourth grade and the other eighth grade.
Bethany spent her junior year at Madison Southern High School, and she really enjoyed her time there, she said.
“I didn’t leave because I didn’t like it and I didn’t feel like I didn’t fit in, it was more that I wanted better opportunities, as far as with starting college,” she said.
Bethany’s mother, Angela, said she didn’t know what to expect when she enrolled her children in public school.
“I just put her in AP (advanced placement) courses because she seemed like she was fairly bright,” Angela said.
Bethany giggled at her mom’s compliment.
“You really don’t know how they (home-schooled students) measure up to other kids,” Angela continued. “But, she actually did extremely well.”
Taking a standardized test for the first time her junior year, Bethany scored a 19 out of a possible 36 on the ACT.
In the following months, Bethany took the ACT twice more and got a 25 both times.
When it came time to pick a college, she considered pursuing a Governor’s School for the Arts scholarship at the University of Kentucky. Bethany had been one of the four classical violinists selected for the GSA program one summer.
However, her ACT score of 25 only qualified her for a $1,500 a year partial scholarship. At the time, Bethany was unaware of another scholarship opportunity at EKU.
In February, Bethany took the EKU Residual ACT.
The score of this ACT could not be transferred to any other institution or agency and was used to consider scholarship eligibility at EKU only.
With scholarship deadlines looming, Bethany took this last chance to achieve a better score and rake in more college money.
“And I studied my butt off, let me tell you…” Bethany said.
The day after her test, having earned an ACT score of 29, Bethany received a $40,000 EKU Founders Award, the second highest award in this series of scholarships.
Reward amounts range from $14,000 to $52,000 and are based on academic achievement. Freshman recipients must only apply for college admission to be considered for the scholarships.
Bethany was required to have an unweighted high school grade point average of 3.75 or above and an ACT composite score from 29 to 31 to receive the four-year award of $40,000.
Bethany attributes her success to hours spent hovering over ACT practice books, but also to Middle College teacher Stephanie Smith.
“She’s the toughest teacher I’ve ever had,” Bethany said.
Smith administered timed essay questions, helped her improve her analytical skills and pushed each student to have better vocabulary — lessons that seemed to help her on every section of the ACT, Bethany said.
A typical day for Bethany
Bethany’s schedule is like that of any other college student. On Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays, she takes high school courses: College and Career Readiness, math and English. All of these are taught by two high school teachers, but in a classroom on EKU’s campus.
Stephanie Smith teaches history and English while Monica Mynk teaches math and science.
Bethany also has a college Spanish course on these days.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Bethany only has one college course at 12:30 p.m..
“Which is nice,” she said.
Last semester, she earned credits for Sociology 131 and Music History 171.
The Middle College office is located in the bottom floor of Burnam Hall directly across from the Ravine.
“This is sort of the nest,” Angela said. “It gives the students a place to hang out in between classes.”
Bethany is a classical violinist with the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra and second-seat violinist in the Kentucky All-State Orchestra. At Burnam Hall, Bethany has a place to lock up her violin and practice all she wants in between classes.
She also has a microwave available to heat up her lunch and couches on which to relax or study.
One of the highlights of the Middle College program is that “you are not in a building all day,” Bethany said. “You can go outside when it’s nice and go to the Ravine to eat lunch or play music.”
Each Middle College student gets use of a MacBook and instead of carrying print textbooks, textbook content is uploaded onto the computers, Bethany said.
College books also are ordered for the students at no charge to the parents.
For parents, eliminating even a few semesters of college costs is one appeal of Middle College, Angela said.
As a student herself and the mother of four children, “we understand the value of money, especially when it comes to your education,” she said.
Angela hopes her younger children can take advantage of the program in years to come.
Bethany said several people tried talking her out of enrolling in Middle College.
“They said, ‘It’s too hard. Why would you take all these hard classes your senior year?’”
Although she was a little intimidated at first, she said, “I knew it was the best decision I could have ever made.”
Look for another story about Middle College at EKU in the Richmond Register this week.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.