Brianna Peterson

Brianna Peterson

For a long time, Brianna Peterson felt she would attend college at Montana State University in Bozeman, like her dad did.

But during an application event at the beginning of her senior year at Laurel High School, she applied to Rocky Mountain College.

“They came back right away and accepted me,” said Peterson, 18. “And within a week they sent me the highest general scholarship you could get because of my academics.”

She toured Rocky and learned about its science programs. And when she won another scholarship, her plans changed. Rocky was it.

Peterson was well-prepared to earn the scholarships. Having already collected college credits through dual enrollment and Advanced Placement classes in high school, she’ll graduate from Laurel with honors with a 4.3 GPA.

She played softball for nine years before getting into an independent rugby team out of Billings. Her main focuses were her grades and her family, she said.

In April, Peterson flew to Washington, D.C., to compete in a government class national competition. The Laurel team, as a class, won the state competition in Helena to earn the national bid. The competition is like a giant research project.

“We study the Constitution and how it applies in today’s society,” she said. “Founding Fathers and everything about government you can imagine.”

Students compete by answering questions from a panel of professionals — lawyers, judges and others. It has the feel of a quiz that won’t stop, she said.

At Rocky, she plans to study biology with hopes to reach medical school.

“I’ve always been (into) ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’” she said. “That’s my show. But medicine has always interested me. Science is my favorite subject.”

Rocky made sense to Peterson because the class sizes are small — she’s a self-avowed “small-town girl”— and she’s able to jump into the college atmosphere within reach of home.

This summer, she’ll take a vacation to another small town: Juneau, Alaska, where the peace and solitude might feel familiar.

When she returns, she’ll take what she’s learned to prep for life at Rocky. It’s both the studies and the independence that entice her.

“I think just getting on my own,” Peterson said. “Pursuing my dream, most of all, and just experiencing college life.”