By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
It’s a long way from being a bright middle school student to becoming a successful freshman at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But a Roane State Community College employee helped span that gap, and a mom is forever grateful.
Maria Gonzales, director of student enrollment and recruitment, played a transformative role in helping Emma Batson, 18, now in her second semester at MIT.
“You never know what one person can do to change the trajectory of a person’s life,” said Emma’s mom, Tresa Batson of Karns. “I wanted to let Roane State know what a special person they have in admissions.”
Tresa Batson is a Roane State grad and a Tennessee Promise mentor. “Roane State has a big place in my heart,” she said.
Five years ago, her daughter was miserable, crying at night because she did not feel challenged with her studies in middle school. “I was a mom who wanted to help her child,” Tresa Batson said.
So she started calling area community colleges to see what they could offer Emma.
Maria Gonzales was the only college representative who returned the calls, Tresa Batson said.
Gonzales said it’s uncommon, but Roane State can offer younger students with exceptional academic scores the chance to enroll in online core classes, Gonzales said.
Taking those core curriculum classes after her conventional studies “gave her (Emma) the challenge she was looking for,” her mom said. “The college gave her something to look forward to after school.”
“The dual studies program we have for academically gifted students has been around a long time at Roane State,” Gonzales said. “In this case, I believe she (Emma) needed the challenge, so it was the perfect fit.”
Roane State dual enrollment programs in Knox County Schools are limited, so Emma participated in that offering at Pellissippi State and racked up enough transferable classes to enter the University of Tennessee as a junior.
But Emma had another university in mind. MIT, which doesn’t take the Tennessee college transfer hours, only enrolls 1,400 freshmen each year.
“She (Emma) felt like taking Roane State courses at a young age is what made MIT look at her more closely,” Tresa Batson said.
“I am really grateful to Ms. Gonzales for helping me,” Emma Batson said. “I always really appreciated when people took time to consider me even though I was young.”
“Really, Roane State helped me in a lot of ways I couldn’t have even predicted at the time.”
Gonzales said she works with hundreds of students each year and recalls the conversation she had with Emma’s mom. “Every once in a while we will get a call like that,” she said.
“The fact she (Emma) is at MIT is incredible,” Gonzales said. “I’m very thankful that I opened a door for her.”
Gonzales said admission for young academically gifted students is rare, but if a student is extremely disciplined, “We’re going to try as best we can to help them get in.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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