ANDERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — Leah Cobble hardly recognizes the hallways of Anderson County High School.
The 17-year-old was sick for most of her freshman year. She learned online during the COVID-19 pandemic her sophomore year.
Then, she spent her junior and senior years enrolled in middle college at Roane State Community College.
"I completed over 80 hours at Roane State," Cobble said. "I pretty much took as many classes as I could in a short amount of time."
Time is everything to Cobble. She was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a chronic illness that causes inflammation in the digestive tract.
"I spent 64 days in the hospital. I had eight surgeries in a year, and I was on a feeding tube for 11 months," she said. "My life was pretty much bedridden. I couldn't do much of anything."
A diagnosis and medication — Remicade — changed her future. She's able to enjoy the outdoors again and work as a pharmacy technician at a local drug store.
"People can turn their lives around for the better with medication," she said. "I know that my future is not predictable with a chronic illness... So I wanted to [become a pharmacist] as soon as I could because I never know what tomorrow can bring."
In May, she will graduate with her high school diploma and her associate's degree. In the fall, she will begin working towards her doctorate in pharmacy from the Medical University of South Carolina.
"She is such an intelligent young woman and just has the work ethic to do what she's done," said Andrea Russell, a district coordinator for middle college with Anderson County Schools. "She's not just taking these super hard classes, but she's really performed well and she always is very successful."
Cobble is so successful she became the first middle college student to win the prestigious Roane State President's Award.
"The President's Award is an award that is given to the highest student," Cobble said. "When you interview with him, you just kind of tell your story and apparently they were moved by my story."
She said she's looking forward to starting a new chapter this fall.
"I'm excited to focus on what I'm passionate about," she said. "I just like talking with the community and helping others."