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CCHS grad has fast track to the future

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Hannah Thomas graduated from Wytheville Community College before finishing high school. Now, the CCHS alumnus will start this fall at Salem College as a junior with a $72,000 scholarship.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Hannah Thomas is well on her way to getting a doctorate in pharmacy after recently earning her arts and sciences associate degree from Wytheville Community College.

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A week after the 18-year-old picked up her two-year degree at WCC, she received her Carroll County High School diploma in graduation exercises in the gym last Saturday.

Her commitment to her educational goal means Salem College will recognize her as a junior after Thomas continues her studies there in the fall.

“It was weird to walk on campus — I’ve been going to school there over a year,” Thomas said about her Wytheville Community College ceremony. “This is one of the few times I’ve been there.”

CCHS counselor Byron Stanbery pointed out to Thomas how much college credit she already had and how close she was to her associate degree. She decided to go for it.

That meant spending last summer in three classes and two extra each semester since. Thomas took dual credit courses — meaning they counted towards both her high school education and her associate degree — plus extra classes online through a computer lab at the school in Hillsville.

“All four classes I had during the day were college classes — I didn’t have any electives,” she explained. “I had no fun classes.”

SEE A SLIDESHOW OF CCHS 2013 GRADUATION PHOTOS HERE

With her extracurricular activities and as holder of America’s Miss Dance national title, Thomas decided the computer lab route suited her the best, rather than taking time away from the things she likes to do by driving to Wytheville or to the Crossroads Institute in Galax.

“It worked a lot better for me to do them online because of cheerleading and dance and everything else,” she said. “I still found time to enjoy my senior year.”

With her introductions to biology, chemistry, economics, statistics and several other courses out of the way, Thomas will jump right into more advanced academic requirements, like organic chemistry, that she will need to get into pharmacy school.

Her accelerated educational track will save time and money.

“I wanted to be at Salem and be a junior. I wanted two years at Salem and four years at pharmacy school,” Thomas explained. “I wanted to get as much out of the way as possible so at 24 I could be a [doctor of pharmacy]."

The tuition savings is significant, as a year of college costs $36,000. A scholarship should pay for tuition for her remaining two years at Salem College.

As far as her career goal goes, Thomas wanted to be in the medical field, but also squirms at the sight of fake blood in horror films.

Working in a pharmacy means she can still interact with people, without having to deal with their bodily fluids.

A determining factor in attending Salem College arises from that institution’s reputation in placing students with internships. She will be in a pre-medical studies program with a chemistry focus.

Thomas is the first Carroll high graduate to earn her associate degree at the same time as a high school degree, but she hopes that other students will decide to do the same.

“I really want people to realize this is something they can do,” she said. “If you’re willing to put in the time, it’s definitely doable — you just have to be motivated.”

Carroll grads receive $306,800 in scholarships

Carroll County graduates received $306,800 in scholarships and awards to assist them in their post-high school activities.

About three-quarters of that financial assistance went to four students bound to Emory & Henry and Salem College.

Carroll School Board members at their May 14 meeting noted how Emory & Henry had stepped up to offer scholarships for $80,000 to Ryan Gravley, $48,000 to Ragan Halsey and $24,000 to Chris Smoot at awards day.

Salem College gave $72,000 to Hannah Thomas.

Wytheville Community College gave several awards.

The Radford University Academy Scholarship helped three students.

Tusculum College and Virginia Tech helped one student each.

The Carroll Scholarship Foundation gave about $26,000 total in 30 gifts to graduates, many in memory of community members.

A range of community groups and businesses also chipped in, ranging from the Meadows of Dan Ruritans, the Democratic and Republican parties, retired teachers, Farm Bureau, search and rescue, Carroll Sheriff’s Office, Chartwells food service, Chateau Morrisette, Galax Ys Men’s Club, Hillsville Masonic Lodge, Lions Club, McGrady & McGrady law office, Milo C. Cockerham, Plant and Pluck, Woodlawn Ruritan and more.

Carroll Schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship said at Saturday’s graduation ceremony that he was quite impressed with the awards, winners and grantors.

“It’s a really neat day,” he said.