Opp duo headed to Mobile for new high school adventure

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 16, 2010

When fall comes, two local students will walk the halls of a new school located a few hours from home.

Opp High School freshmen Jamie Etheridge and Tracy Lin have been accepted to the Alabama School of Math and Science (ASMS) in Mobile, which is a public high school for grades 10, 11 and 12.

“There were more than 200 applicants,” Etheridge said. “But only about 70 slots were open.”

Opp Middle School guidance counselor Margaret Fox said the two are the first Opp students to apply and to be accepted.

“We started this process in the eighth grade, when the girls were still at the middle school,” she said.

“I told them about it because I wanted them to know this is an option available to them in the future.”

Fox said both girls were excited about the opportunity and applied.

The application requires transcripts from the eighth grade and the first semester of the ninth grade, ACT test scores, and recommendations from a counselor, a teacher and a parent. Applicants also complete an interview process.

Etheridge said her toughest interview question was to list her strengths and weaknesses.

“I told them my strength is that I am driven,” she said.

“And my weakness is that I’m not good at saying no.”

Lin said the panel asked her all about her background and home.

Lin actually participated in the ASMS’s summer program and said she met a lot of the students who will be in the girls’ classes.

“I really got to know the teachers at the summer program,” she said. “The students are very committed to learning and the teachers are really friendly.”

While at the summer program, Lin’s classes included weird food sciences, in which they dissected different foods and learned about the different acids and bases of foods; geometry; and magazine design.

Although Etheridge didn’t get to participate in the summer program, she said she knew immediately that she wanted to enroll in the ASMS.

“I wanted to go higher in my education,” she said. “And have more opportunities. The atmosphere is great. The students want to learn.”

The school provides a wide variety of subjects, including astrophysics and cosmology, quantum physics, robotics, advanced prose writing, cellular biology, graphic design, video production, acting, journalism and American pop culture.

The class sizes are smaller, Fox said, with only about 10 to 12 students in a math class.

“There is a lot more one-on-one work,” she said.

Etheridge said another pro of attending ASMS is the opportunity to earn college scholarships.

“About 99 percent of the students get full scholarships,” Fox said. “Not only to the universities in Alabama, but also to MIT, Stanford and Georgia Tech.”

Etheridge said her goal is to attend Stanford and major in psychology.

“I think I have the qualities to do this,” she said. “My friends come to me for help.”

Lin, on the other hand, hasn’t settled on a college, but said she would like to study architecture and design.

The two will be roommates beginning in August.

“We’re both excited, but will miss our parents and the people we are leaving behind here,” Etheridge said.

“I’ll miss my friends, family and Mrs. Fox,” Lin said.