BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – Lexi Simpson recently graduated twice – first from college and then from high school.
The 18-year-old began dual enrollment – that is, taking college courses while in high school – during her sophomore year at Tri-Cities Christian School in Blountville. She pursued her associate’s degree through Northeast State Community College for most of her high school years.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Lexi admitted. “It was a struggle to balance my high school and my college and everything else.”
The “everything else” makes her accomplishment all the more remarkable. In addition to carrying heavy course loads for high school and college simultaneously, Lexi continued to participate in school athletics – competing in volleyball, basketball and soccer – while also maintaining a job.
The icing on the cake is that Lexi graduated summa cum laude on May 9 from Northeast State. On Saturday, she graduated from Tri-Cities Christian School with a 4.34 grade point average. She was the class valedictorian.
“I’m very proud of her,” said her mother, Lisa Simpson. “She is incredibly organized and efficient, and I am really glad she was able to accomplish her goal. She had a vision, and she made it happen.”
The drive that has pushed Lexi to succeed seems to run in her family. She is a triplet, and her two sisters, Mackenzie and Sidney, were also dual enrollment students at Tri-Cities Christian and Northeast State. Though the girls were born minutes apart, Lexi was the first born and seems determined to keep ahead of her sisters, even if fractionally. Her sisters lacked only a couple of classes to also graduate with their associate’s degrees this spring.
“We’re all very competitive with each other in every aspect of life,” said Lexi with a laugh. “We definitely push each other.”
Lexi’s degree in general science opened the door for her to go into the nursing program at East Tennessee State University. She will start in the fall, and plans to have her bachelor’s degree in nursing and science by 2019. From there, she intends to proceed directly into ETSU’s doctorate of nursing program, and hopes to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner.
Though most of Lexi’s immediate family members work in more technically-oriented fields like engineering, her grandmother was a nurse and she has an aunt who has an OB/GYN practice in Virginia.
“I always thought nursing was so interesting – all of the stories my grandmother would tell, and she had all the medical textbooks and would let me read them,” Lexi explained. “My grandmother and my aunt were my inspiration to go into the medical field, but my driving force was definitely my mom. She was so encouraging and supportive; I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Lexi notes that one of the hardest parts was that her school breaks were not on the same schedule, so planning a vacation was a challenge. Ultimately, she had to choose between missing classes for high school or college if she wanted time off for spring or fall break. Furthermore, she has taken classes in the summer, so this year will be the first summer she hasn’t been in school since 2015.
But that doesn’t mean she’s going to relax. Lexi will work as a lifeguard at the Kingsport Aquatic Center. She was a lifeguard for the center two years ago, but last year took a break to work at Cornerstone Village, an assisted living facility in Johnson City, Tennessee. She recalls the long shifts at the facility – usually three to four nights in a row working 12-hour shifts, all while still taking college courses.
“To be honest, I don’t know how I did it,” Lexi conceded. “There was a lot of coffee involved.”
Though she appreciated the opportunity to do work related to her field of study, Lexi looks forward to getting back to being a lifeguard. She says it is the most fun job she’s ever had, and she enjoys being around people her own age and getting to work with the public. The job will offer her a little fun before she plunges back into academics in the fall.
“Lexi is a very hard worker,” stated Sue Widener, English teacher and senior sponsor at Tri-Cities Christian. “She is one of those people that she does well at anything she does. She is diligent, and always kind and very friendly and willing to help others. She is a very rare young lady.”