MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Blackman High School senior Jania Boddie plans to major in studio art and graphic design when she enters Middle Tennessee State University later this year.

So it was no surprise that her capstone research project as part of the Blackman Collegiate Academy had an intensely artistic focus — the impact of child art therapy in terms of communicating emotions — and required three days of observation and hands-on activities at a local Boys and Girls Club.

That’s pretty heady stuff for a high school student to tackle, but such challenging research topics are expected at the academy, which held its third annual Capstone Gallery Walk for almost 60 seniors, their proud parents and a host of supporters on Feb. 8 inside Blackman’s cafeteria.

“The research, and all of the time and effort and support that I’ve put into it, and all of the help from my family and friends as well … it just prepares you for the college courses and all of the presentations that we’ll have to do,” Boddie said.

Launched in 2015, the Blackman Collegiate Academy includes a special partnership between MTSU and Blackman that allows eligible juniors and seniors to take up to six hours of university courses taught at Blackman by MTSU instructors at no cost. The credits will count on high school and college transcripts.

The academy attracts high-achieving students, with the current BCA senior class having taken more than 1,210 advanced courses, boasts an average GPA of 3.78 and an average ACT score of 27.75.

For the Capstone Gallery Walk, which was open to the public, students set up display booths to showcase their research and fields of interest, ranging from health sciences to journalism and from fine arts to science and technology.

“This is a great activity for us to be able to come to, to actually see the outcome and the product of the work of these young students,” said Deb Sells, MTSU vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services.

“We’ve had the opportunity particularly this year to have some of our faculty serve as mentors in their research. That means a lot to us to have that connection at the high school level with students that are so bright and already so focused.”

Blackman Assistant Principal Ken Reed, academy coordinator, said the program enables students to take their knowledge outside the classroom to complete research projects and make presentations to outside entities and organizations.

“It’s a difference-maker for them,” he said. “They get an opportunity to start that research and then continue that type of work at the next level.”

BHS Principal Leisa Justus said establishing the academy was a critical addition to her campus because it offers top middle school students and their families and attractive destination for the next step in their academic careers.

“We want them to choose Blackman High School,” she said, “… because it is a rigorous academic (environment). We’re a mini-college.”

Blackman senior Cole Harkin’s capstone project involved researching strength-training benefits (physical and mental) for children and adolescents. His work included creating and designing a website featuring warming up and cooling down videos.

With plans to attend MTSU majoring in exercise science, Harkins feels the academy has helped prepare him for the demands of higher education.

“I definitely learned better time management skills,” he said, “being able to pace myself throughout the semester in order to get a finished project. … It’s also taught me personal life skills, like being able to communicate professionally with an adult.”

Justus said BHS will be adding two more dual-enrollment classes to the 13 already being offered at the west Murfreesboro high school.

For more information about the Blackman Collegiate Academy, visit and click on the appropriate link under the “Academics” tab.


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