CMA Student’s Difficult Journey Leads To Academic Success

CMA Student’s Difficult Journey Leads To Academic Success

Commencement ceremonies are about to begin, and Knox County Schools is celebrating outstanding students in the Class of 2023.  For a full list of this year’s valedictorians, salutatorians, and military commitments, visit

When Angel Hellen learned she was the Career Magnet Academy co-valedictorian, she was shocked.

“It’s not something that I had my eye on, and it’s good to see that sometimes you don’t have to plan for things like this,” the senior said. “You just do the work and that will get you there.”

Hellen originally planned to study nursing, but finishing at the top of her class gave her the confidence to chase a different dream. She is now hoping to pursue a pre-med track at Howard University in Washington, D.C., which is among the country’s most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities. 

As a first-generation American, her dream to attend Howard is personal. 

“Coming to America, I never saw anyone like me. When I came here, I felt super-alone,” she said. “From that experience, I’ve always wanted to go to a historically Black college, just so I can see a different side of things. I just want to see myself in a different environment and see what that would foster out of me.”

Hellen was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the Congolese Civil War. After her father died as a result of the violence, Hellen, her mother, and her sisters fled the country to Uganda. She was only four. 

Living as refugees in Uganda, her family waited for six years to be granted entrance to the United States as asylum-seekers.

Now in the United States for almost a decade, and after putting in years of work to excel academically, Hellen is hoping to earn enough scholarship support to attend Howard, where she has been accepted for enrollment. But whatever happens, she remains positive.

“Even if I don’t go, just knowing that I had the chance to go is just like, ‘I’ve really set myself up to go to this school,’” she said. “Maybe not financially, but academically, I’ve done everything that I could to put myself in the best position at one of the best schools ever.”

She says she has her support system to thank for her success. 

“For me, my whole journey from coming to America to this point, I just look back and see a group of people that have been there for me,” Hellen said.

CMA Students Earn Associate Degree Before Diploma

CMA Students Earn Associate Degree Before Diploma

Career Magnet Academy students signed a Credit Wall earlier this week to highlight a great achievement–earning college credit in high school through Pellissippi State Community College.

CMA’s mission is for every student to graduate with a “diploma plus.” Diploma-plus graduates receive not only a high school diploma, but also earn an associate degree or industry certification. 

The class of 2023 will have over a third of its graduates receiving a diploma plus, and CMA counselor Ann Orpurt is proud of their dedication.

“This senior class is special. Since freshmen year, they came in ready to work, thinking ahead about college classes and what it took to get there,” Orpurt said. “They are competitive, smart, and funny. They are also kind and determined. I will miss them terribly.”

Students can begin taking courses through Pellissippi State as early as their sophomore year. Around 150 underclassmen were able to add their names to the Credit Wall during the celebrations on Wednesday and Thursday.

Senior Jenna Hays will graduate with her associate degree in general education and plans to enroll at the University of Tennessee to major in psychology. 

“I actually decided in fifth grade that I wanted to go here. I just thought it was really cool that I could work toward my associate degree as I’m in high school,” Hays said. “Career Magnet Academy has been an amazing school, and I’ve appreciated all four years of it.”CMA will host an Open House on Thursday, Feb. 9 from 6:00 pm. to 8:00 p.m. for any interested families. Visit to learn more.