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MOUNT WASHINGTON - Next fall, 15-year-old Maria Long will start a new journey.
Instead of heading back with her peers to Bullitt East to begin her junior year, she will be a student at the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Bowling Green, on the campus of Western Kentucky University.
“I think it will give me the opportunities to get ahead at my age and know more of what I want to do with my life,” she said.
The academy was formed in 2007 offering Kentucky students an alternative to finishing high school. Students attend for two years taking college courses.
Long said she will also have a chance to participate in study abroad trips and research seminars while there.
The Mount Washington resident said she first heard about the program when her older brother, Bobby, was invited to attend in his sophomore year.
“I was in fifth grade… I have been working toward applying ever since,” she said.
On March 7, she found out she had been one of the 131 students accepted to the Class of 2016. She was the lone recipient from Bullitt County, which has been among the leaders in having students selected for the prestigious honor.
Criteria applicants are reviewed on include high school grades, awards, letters of recommendation and ACT/SAT scores.
Chad Phillips, assistant director of admissions and external relations at Gatton, said this year’s pool of applicants was one of the strongest they’ve ever had.
He said Long was “definitely a standout academic student” to be chosen for the program.
In addition to the numerous opportunities she thinks attending could have for her career, Long said she was also drawn to the freedom to “follow her own path” and be on her own.
“I’m looking forward to being able to be my own person and do what I want when I want,” she said.
Long will live in a dorm and attend classes just like a college student.
She said she miss her friends next year, that she has been in school with since kindergarten, but she is looking forward to interacting with her other “like-minded” Gatton peers.
Right now she plans to pursue studies in biology possibly becoming a biochemist.
But the hardest thing for her, she thinks, will be not relying on her parents, Robert and Dana Long, as much being far away.