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Harrison honored at assembly

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By John Barnhart

Exxon Mobil has a vested interest in making sure America’s youth are well vested in math and science, according to Bob Ball, the company’s external affairs manager for the southeastern part of the United States. A local student helped put a face on that effort last month.

    “We hire a lot of scientists, mathematicians and engineers,” Ball commented at an assembly at Liberty High School last week.
    The company has been involved with promoting advanced placement (AP) courses in high schools and encouraging students to take them. As part of this effort, the company produced a series of public service commercials which have played in various venues this year. They featured high school students who are taking AP courses. Students were auditioned and two Virginia high school students were selected.
    One of them was Kara Harrison, a senior at Liberty High School.  The spot with Harrison aired during the Masters golf tournament last month. An assembly was held at the high school last week to honor her; it just also happened to be her 18th birthday.
    “I’m going to do an engineering undergrad,” she said when asked what she plans to major in.
    Then, she wants to go to medical school. Her plan, however, is not to become a physician. She wants to do biomedical research with a plan to do research in areas where most others are not. The details of this plan will be worked out during her coming years of education.
    Harrison took a lot of AP courses — all of her math courses were AP.
    She is currently deciding whether to go to Virginia Tech or the University of Virginia. Both of her  parents are Tech alumni. She also knows that the AP courses she has taken in high school will allow her to enter Tech with a junior standing.
    “All my electives are done,” she said.
    Kara Harrison’s father is Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Louis Harrison.
    Dr. Douglas Schuch, Bedford County’s superintendent of schools, spoke at the assembly and encouraged college bound students to take AP courses. He said that getting a lower grade in an AP course will still leave a student better prepared for college work than a higher grade in a less rigorous course.
    Liberty High School (LHS) has been part of the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP) since 2008. The program was implemented at LHS with a grant from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). According to Dale Fleury, regional director for NMSI, American students score near the bottom on international tests in math and science. However, American students who have taken AP courses rank at the top.    
    LHS offered four AP courses three years ago and had 77 students enrolled. Now, the school offers eight and has more than 200 students taking those.    
    Along with paying for the public service ads, Exxon Mobil supports ATIP with cash. During last week’s assembly, Ball presented a $10,000 check to Liberty High School.