The sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” will become too familiar for two Sevier County scholars. Both Kaley Shepherd of Gatlinburg and Courtney Bohanan of Sevierville are participating in two graduations this month. The pair graduated from Walters State Community College on May 4. This weekend, they'll graduate from Gatlinburg Pittman High School and Sevier County High School.
The two enrolled in dual enrollment college, a program that allows students to take Walters State Community College courses while still in high school. The college courses meet requirements for a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Many students take a few dual enrollment courses. Area high school graduates often leave high school with a semester of college credits. Popular courses include English, psychology and history.
Shepherd and Bohanan are full participants. Both took one or two courses during their freshman year. Most of their junior and senior years were spent on the Walters State Sevier County Campus.
Why add the stress of college to what are often referred to as the best years of your life? Both wanted more challenging classes and both saw it as a way to save money on college courses.
“This has saved me more than $50,000 and two years,” said Bohanan. She will enter Carson-Newman College as a junior in nursing.
“My mom is a nurse and I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. I did think about medical school, but I want to have a family, too. I thought being in school for so long would interfere with my desire to be a mother. Nursing requires many of the same traits and enables you to positively impact many lives,” Bohanan said.
Shepherd plans on entering the University of Tennessee this fall and has been awarded prestigious Pledge and Volunteer Scholarships. She then plans on attending graduate school to study the psychology of corporations and organizations, leading to a career in marketing or human resources.
“At first, taking a full dual enrollment schedule was challenging. I had to learn how to manage my time,” Shepherd said. Gatlinburg-Pittman High School required her to be there for the first period, but that class was almost always a dual enrollment class offered at the high school. Most of her time was spent on campus.
“I got to know the faculty members and administration very well. Now, I consider many of them friend,” Shepherd said. She wanted to thank two particular faculty members: Dr. Timothy Holder, associate professor of history, and Dr. Terry Rawlinson, assistant professor of psychology.
“They were a big help inside and outside the classroom. Dr. Rawlinson gave me different strategies for choosing where I would go after Walters State and for graduate school,” Shepherd said.
Likewise, Bohanan became good friends with Amanda Barnes, student service coordinator and Ronnie Taylor, director of educational services the Sevier County Campus.
“I knew whatever question or problem I had, they would be able to answer it,” Bohanan said.
The two think dual enrollment college is great, but warn that the program’s advantages do come with extra responsibility.
“Make sure that getting your education now is your priority. I did get out of high school early everyday, but I spent so much time studying and even had some night courses,” Shepherd said.
CUTLINE: Kaley Shepherd, left, and Courtney Bohanan stand with Ronnie Taylor, director of educational services at the Walters State Sevier County Campus. The students earned an associate degree from the college before earning their high school diplomas.