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Northeast Times | February 8, 2023

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CMA Celebrates 10th Anniversary: Part 1-of-5 Series

CMA Celebrates 10th Anniversary: Part 1-of-5 Series

This is the first in a five-part series this week celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Carroll Medical Academy.

How It All Began: History of the Carroll Medical Academy
The vision started more than a decade ago.

After working in the Carroll Independent School District for more than 12 years, former Carroll Senior High School Principal Dr. Daniel Presley saw a growing need for students interested in careers in medicine.

The idea of the Carroll Medical Academy was soon born. Presley’s vision would become a reality in 2004 under Director Alan Cotten, who led the program for one year before taking another position. Initially, CMA enrollment was open to students outside of CISD who provided their own transportation.

“We had so many talented kids with this interest, it seemed like a program that our community needed and deserved,” said Presley, now Chief of Schools & Innovation in Round Rock ISD. “I’m very proud of the great number of students who have taken on the challenge of the Carroll Medical Academy and have transitioned to successful careers as medical professionals.”

The vision needed a team and financial support to get off the ground. With the help of Carroll ISD Coordinator of Counseling Dr. Becci Rollins, Curriculum Coordiator Dr. Rene’ Moses and CSHS Assistant Principal Dr. Susanne Warren, the curriculum foundation was crafted. Accelerated science courses were needed to best position the students for careers in medicine.

“It’s quite unique because of the academic intensity,” said Cotten, who now teaches at Fossil Ridge High School. “If you’re going to do something in science, then you’re probably exposed to more science at a deeper level and more competitive level than anywhere around.”

A big boost in launching the program came from a two-year $100,000 grant from the Hudson Foundation. This helped supplement the costs for the program from equipment to staffing. The Hudson Foundation helps support education and discovery experiences for schools and organizations in the North Texas and Kansas City areas.

CMA was built as a four-year program and started with 12 students in 2004.

“They were special and they were the foundation,” said current CMA Directory Sherry Martin, who took over the program in 2005. “If they didn’t think of it, we thought of it together.”

In the first two years of the academy, the number of students applying to CMA doubled. Cotten started the Physician’s Breakfast, which allows CMA students to interact with professionals in various medical fields. This event has exploded and outgrown one facility after another over the years and is now known as Career Day. This year’s event is scheduled in February.

CMA unlocks Carroll students to the medical world and prepares them with rigorous curriculum beginning in ninth grade. The program can be just as rewarding as it is challenging.

“After working with our science department,” Presley said, “we put together a sequence of courses that would allow Carroll students to enter college with a clear advantage in acquiring their bachelor’s degree and moving into medical school or another medical profession.”
Cotten wondered if the curriculum was too daunting for freshmen when the program began. Then he quickly realized the type of determined Carroll students enrolled in the program.
“What I remember most was the dedication of the students,” Cotten said.
Based on the curriculum demands, it was similar to putting freshman players on varsity and making them starters. There was no learning curve…only dedicated learners.
The first class of CMA students in 2004 crafted a logo and bonded together. As the first class, they created a special tie. They were like “iron sharpening iron” as Cotten remembers. He saw the students working together as a team, bonding through studying and encouraging each other. What had formed was a 12-person community devoted to the Cotten’s teaching and each other.

“He was amazing and captured our attention and always had high energy,” said Nick Holder, a member of the first CMA class and now a student at UT-Southwestern. “He believed in the vision and believed we could do it.”

CMA students in this year’s class describe the same type of unity and dedication now attributed to Martin. After a decade, the vision continues to grow as 50 students will graduate from this year’s CMA class.
“It’s just a rare opportunity,” Cotten said of CMA. “When these students go to college they should be head and shoulders above everybody else.”
Tuesday: Question & Answer with CMA Director Sherry Martin