Currie Martin

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Martin becomes first graduate of UM-ISHS program

Another graduation ceremony took place on the the University of Mississippi campus on May 24, but this time only one student was receiving a diploma. No, attendance at the University hasn’t dwindled – it was a ceremony for Currie Martin, the first graduate of The University of Mississippi’s Independent Study High School (UM-ISHS) diploma program.

“This is a milestone,” said Stephen Beebe, Coordinator for UM-ISHS, in a short speech given at the ceremony. “Currie is a trailblazer. The Martin family stuck with us through our growing pains… and we thank them for that.”

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Martin, an Oxford native and son of Bill and Carol Martin, is one of Mississippi’s foremost tennis players. He was formerly a student at North Delta Academy in Batesville until his own rigorous schedule began encroaching on his school time.

“From my 6th grade year through my sophomore year I’d have to get up at about 5:30 a.m., lift, run and go to school 45 minutes away. I’d go to school all day, and after I got through with school, I would drive back, eat, have tennis practice until about 6:30 or 7 p.m., and then start my homework. Then I’d wake up the next day and do it all over again.”

And that wasn’t counting the numerous tournaments, for which Martin had to travel to various cities like Columbia, SC or New Orleans for a long weekend of tennis matches.

“Friday was travel day and the tournament might last until the following Monday and then I would have to travel back (Tuesday). I missed at least 11 days of school my sophomore year from traveling.”

That all changed when Martin began the UM-ISHS program.

“I was able to get up at 7 a.m., do work from about 8 to noon and do a little workout in the afternoon. It was flexible enough that if I needed to get tomorrow’s work done I could get it done and then have tomorrow off (for tennis).”

UM-ISHS offers a full curriculum of semester and full year courses for students in grades 9 through 12. Each course is aided by either print or online instruction and students are taught by licensed instructors – most of whom hold masters’ degrees.

The online courses are designed to provide students with step-by-step instructions, offering detailed self-help activities that allow the student to guide himself through a lesson without the need for immediate instruction from a teacher.

Though the program began in 2002, Martin is the first to complete all the requirements for a diploma.

Now that the UM-ISHS program has a graduate under its belt, Beebe says there is nowhere to go but up.

“People who are placing inquiries into the program want to know how many people have graduated, and if someone hears that  ‘x’ amount of people have gone through the program and nobody’s graduated, then that person automatically assumes that we’re not productive, we’re not pushing, that we don’t have something good going on here. But now we can say that someone has indeed graduated.”

For Beebe, the “guinea pig” nature of Martin’s time at ISHS was a benefit, as it allowed the administrators to work out all the details in the program.

“(Because) he was the first to take all the courses required to get a diploma, he experienced things that students taking one class will never see. And he helped us test some of our policies in a good way; he gave us an opportunity to analyze those items.”

Although the program offered great flexibility for Martin, it also demanded a large dose of self-discipline, which he believes any rising college freshman could use.

“In college, you’re going to be by yourself. I’m going to be five hours from home; I’m not going to have anyone kicking me in the pants, telling me you’ve got to get up and get going. A lot of it was making myself get up when I need to and do work when I need to, as opposed to sleeping later and going and doing something fun.”

Not to mention that the classes weren’t exactly a walk in the park.

“The curriculum was pretty tough. It was a lot of essays, a lot of reading and writing. It was tough work, but that’s how it will be in college. I found that I had to really learn the subjects if I wanted to pass the class, not just memorize the material. ”

Martin said that had he continued on his normal high school schedule, he’s not sure where he would be.

“Had I ended up in the same place (that I am now) it would have been so much tougher. There would have been constant work, absolutely no downtime, and so much pressure.”

The recipient of the 2006 Dorothy Vest Male Tennis Player of the Year by the Mississippi Tennis Association, Martin has signed a letter of intent to play tennis at Western Kentucky University where his parents hope he will continue to score as well on his exams as he does in his matches.

“We keep telling him his academics are going to take him a lot further than his tennis,” joked Currie’s father, Bill Martin. “But without the flexibility of this program he could not have achieved what he has with tennis. And now he is exceptionally well prepared for college.”