Diploma and Degree: Lexi Simpson takes home both this spring

Lexi Simpson is one of triplet sisters, but she stands alone this spring as a student scholar earning her high school diploma and an associate degree from Northeast State Community College in the same semester.

Simpson will receive her associate degree from Northeast State at the College’s May 9 graduation commencement ceremony.  She will receive her high school diploma from Tri-Cities Christian Schools (TCCS) on May 20.

“I thought I could keep on track to finish my high school work and earn my degree, so I dedicated myself to doing it,” said Simpson. “The days are a little bit long, but it is worth it.”

Lexi Simpson

The University Parallel Dual Enrollment Program unites local high schools, home-schools, and the Northeast State in a cooperative effort to provide qualified high school students an opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school. Students such as Simpson can earn up to 12 hours of transferable college credit each semester. The challenge to complete the credit hours needed to earn the degree is daunting – Simpson is the first dual enrollment student to pull off the feat at Northeast State in several years.

“I would tell any student considering it to start off slow and do not overwhelm yourself early on,” said Simpson. “Take a few classes and get accustomed to the schedule.”

Simpson enrolled in dual enrollment classes during her sophomore year of high school. She dedicated herself to college courses and will graduate summa cum laude with a University Parallel General Studies degree. She heads to East Tennessee State University this fall where she has already been admitted to the College of Nursing as a junior-year student.

“A lot of my immediate family members are engineers,” she said. “It was interesting, in that, I chose to forge my own path.”

A typical week during her senior year found Simpson taking high school classes in the morning. From Monday to Thursday, she spent afternoons attending college classes. Class and lab work often kept her on campus until the early evening.

The hectic schedule required her to prioritize her time. That meant giving up sports such as TCCS girls’ soccer and basketball. However, she kept her spot on the girls’ volleyball team.

“Because Tri-Cities Christian is a small school, all the same kids play the same sports and you become pretty close,” she said.

Simpson completed prerequisite health-related courses including her favorite classes of Anatomy and Physiology I and II. She also found time to take elective classes in theatre that opened up a new world to her.

“I had never been involved in theatre at all, but Professor (Elizabeth) Sloan made the class an incredible experience,” she said.

Simpson said her sisters, Sidney and Mackenzie, push each other to excel. All three sisters are dual enrollment students at Northeast State. All three were also inducted into the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society earlier this year.

Simpson said both sisters had themselves accumulated almost enough college credit hours at Northeast State to graduate this spring. That hard work and competitive drive gave Simpson a leg up in her academic pursuits and future career.

“Dual enrollment is a challenging prospect for anyone,” she said. “You have to make the class work a priority because it takes a lot of time and effort.”

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