From Laurel Ridge student to Brown University neuroscience major

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Right after graduating simultaneously from Laurel Ridge and Strasburg High School – actually, his associate degree in general studies was granted slightly before his high school diploma – Eric Steacy left for the prestigious Brown University to study neuroscience in fall 2017.

Steacy had had his heart set on the Ivy League school, located in Providence, R.I., since entering high school. After taking the PSAT, college literature came pouring into his mailbox. Brown stood out.

“Ever since my freshman year, I would say, ‘I’m going to Brown,’” he said. “I kind of just fell in love with the open curriculum there and their grading system. It puts less emphasis on the letter grade, and more on the work you’re doing. With the open curriculum, you take the classes you choose.”

During his junior and senior years of high school, Steacy took nearly all of his dual-enrolled classes online or at Laurel Ridge’s Middletown Campus.

He really enjoyed his biology classes with Professor Rob Simpson, who has also taught nature and outdoor photography at Laurel Ridge and had his photos published in National Geographic.

“Professor Simpson made class so interactive and such a fun time,” Steacy said. “He showed the variety and beauty of nature. The pictures he would show us were incredible – things you couldn’t even find in magazines or online.”

While Laurel Ridge’s dual-enrollment credits easily transfer to public colleges in Virginia and many private colleges, Brown University doesn’t accept transfer credits for online classes, dual-enrollment classes, summer programs or AP test scores, according to its website. However, Steacy says his associate degree and experience at Laurel Ridge helped him gain admission to the highly-selective university.

“The fact I earned the associate degree was what got me in there,” he said. “I feel like it helped me stand out. I think it showed that I was a determined student. Not many of my classmates at Brown come from rural areas.”

While he originally planned to study pre-med to become a neurosurgeon, Steacy now is considering working in addiction studies and the neural reward circuits, or Alzheimer’s and neuro-degenerative diseases.

After he graduates in 2021, Steacy hopes to work in research before going on to graduate school, and eventually attain his Ph.D.

“I think being a professor somewhere would be really cool,” he said.

Steacy would recommend Laurel Ridge’s dual-enrollment program to other young people.

“I would definitely recommend that most, if not all high schoolers, dual enroll at Laurel Ridge because of how well it prepares you, and for the college experience it gives you. It turned around my entire high school experience.”

There is one other person Steacy is very grateful for, and that is his mom, Gail Kraemer.

“I could not have done any of this without her,” he said. “Ever since I can remember, she has encouraged me to keep my grades up and ensured that I applied to Laurel Ridge. She really helped me find my place and is my motivation to go out and seek another college degree.”

Learn more about dual enrollment at