10 Ways You Can Help Shape Lexington’s Future Workforce

Since launching Academies within Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek high schools last fall, we’ve received an incredible amount of support from the community. From families to businesses, to individuals and organizations—the energy and excitement surrounding our approach to doing education differently has been sweeping through Lexington. To continue to provide our Academy students with hands-on, real-world learning experiences that prepare them to succeed in a 21st century economy, we must all continue to work together.

We’re often asked, “How can I get involved?” or “I want to help, but what can I do?” The answer is that there are many ways to join The Academies of Lexington movement. The following are just a few examples of how businesses, individuals and organizations can support Academies to create a brighter future right here in Lexington.

1. Be a guest speaker

Guest speakers offer fresh perspectives and bring real-world applications to the classroom. Whether you’re interested in lending career advice or specific industry insights, we’d love to hear what ideas and topics you’d like to share with our Academy students.

2. Judge a competition

Feedback from professionals is crucial to our students as they continue to learn and grow throughout their Academy experience. By being a “judge” for  classroom presentations and projects, you can promote critical learning opportunities for improvement, as well as provide support.

3. Participate in career and industry events

Academies offer various events and activities that bring real-life professionals and industries directly to students. For example, our Career Exploration fair for freshman, Mission: Exploration, brought professionals from nearly 40 local organizations to Bryan Station High School to offer hands-on experiences and promote open dialogue about careers.

4. Volunteer

Volunteers are welcome at several Academy events and activities!  Whether it’s an award celebration, faculty appreciation day or a field trip, there are many ways to lend a helping hand.

5. Provide a teacher externship

Externships promote continuous improvement for our Academy teachers, helping them bring real-world experiences into the classroom. These opportunities allow teachers to get a firsthand look at the industry-specific skills their students will need to be competitive in the future.

6. Offer job shadowing opportunities

By allowing an Academy student to observe you in your everyday work environment, they’ll get a firsthand look at what being in the workforce is like. It’s also a great way for students to confirm (or re-evaluate) their own future career goals.

7. Host a field trip

Field trips are a great way for industry and businesses to expose Academy students to various fields. From visits to local manufacturing facilities to touring hospitals, field trips provide important learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

8. Be a mentor

Being a mentor is a wonderful way to not only help prepare Academy students for life after high school, but to also forge meaningful relationships that positively influence our youth. We welcome both career and project-specific mentors to work directly with small groups of students.

9. Host an intern

 As the workforce becomes increasingly competitive, gaining professional experience before college graduation is more important than ever. Providing an internship is an excellent way to allow Academy students to see and participate in your industry, as well as get valuable experience.

10. Get creative!

If you have an idea that’s not on this list, we’d love to hear it! Part of what makes the Academy model so special is our ability to shift and evolve with the world around us—so we always welcome new ideas from the community.

Opportunities for Academy students to learn from local professionals, explore in-demand industries and get a glimpse at life after high school are all made possible by those who share our vision for shaping Lexington’s next generation of leaders.  Through the collective support of families, businesses, educators and the community, we can not only positively impact the futures of our Academy students—we will strengthen economic development and community prosperity in Lexington.

If you’d like to get involved or share ideas with us, please contact:

Natalie Shepard

Partnership Manager, Business & Education Network









Kentucky College Students Share Tips and Tricks for Postsecondary Success

Nearly 275 students from Bryan Station High School’s Academy of Medical Sciences got a firsthand look at college life thanks to a recent MED Talk. Led by a panel of college students from various healthcare programs at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and the University of Kentucky (UK), the event promoted an open dialogue between future generations of industry professionals. As part of their rigorous, career-themed curriculum, Bryan Station’s Medical Academy students participate in a MED Talk every month to connect with real-world medical professionals, patients and students.

From discussing how selective healthcare programs in college can be, to how students can stand out from their peers in today’s highly competitive medical landscape—Academy students took advantage of the opportunity to listen to and learn from emerging industry leaders.

MED Talk participants from EKU included Tanner Eldridge and Kaitlin Oshiro, both Athletic Training program students, and Occupational Sciences student, Alyson Crawford, who will begin the school’s MS Occupational Therapy program next year. Participating from UK’s College of Medicine were Patrick Keller, Abigaile Roney and Andrew Wodrich.

Pictured from left to right are UK College of Medicine students Abigaile Roney, Andrew Wodrich and Patrick Keller.
Pictured from left to right are EKU students Kaitlin Oshiro, Tanner Eldridge and Alyson Crawford.


Whether a student is planning to pursue a career in medicine or any other field, the following tips and tricks will help set the stage for postsecondary success:


“With anything in the healthcare field—it’s all about helping patients. Colleges want to see that you’ve done some volunteer work and high school is a great time to start with that,” said Patrick. Alyson continued, “I like to volunteer to stay motivated. If I’m in a nursing home working with residents, that’s my biggest motivation.” Tanner echoed their sentiments adding that volunteering helps to “build your identity as a healthcare provider” down the road.

Job shadow

“One of the biggest things you can do now is get exposure. If you have a particular interest that you know of, try to talk with someone in that field to see what it’s really like. You can reach out, like in our case, to a doctor in the Lexington area and ask to shadow them. Most doctors are excited to have students who are interested, passionate and driven come and learn from them,” said Andrew.

Manage your time

“Take the time to know that in college, school comes first. Time management is a huge thing. When you’re waiting between classes, take an hour to study and make the most of that time,” said Kaitlin.

And according to Tanner, the following simple act of planning is a key to success throughout college: “Make to-do lists,” he said. “Crossing each item off will keep you motivated.”

Develop life skills

“In college you’ll be doing laundry, cooking yourself dinner and waking up to your alarm every day. Think of everything that happens in your life—you’re now accountable for yourself. You have be able to clean, go to the grocery store, and still go to school and study and work hard,” added Andrew.

Study—but still make time for yourself

Studying is essential to maintaining the highest GPA possible, which all panelists agreed is critical to their programs. It’s all about finding ways to make studying collaborative between friends and peers—but also setting limitations. “Have something you look forward to and set limitations. I study every day from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but after that, I’m done. I go to the gym and look forward to that. You need to be more than just your program. You are a well-rounded person. Make time for yourself,” said Abigaile.

Do what you love

“Whatever you are most interested in now—pursue that. Do what you love and it will help you develop into the person you’re destined to become. Be passionate about something and do it well, and to the best of your ability,” said Andrew.

Have fun!

“Even when you have to do 30 hours a week of clinicals, you can still find time to have fun,” remarked Tanner. Patrick added, “It’s also good to have friends outside of your major to keep you sane. You can goof off and just have fun.”

“And if you manage your time correctly, you will have time to go out with your friends and enjoy college while you can. College has been the best time of my life,” said Alyson.

If you are an individual in the medical industry who would like to provide real-world experiences and opportunities to Medical Academy students at the Academies of Bryan Station High School or Health Sciences Academy students at the Academies of Frederick Douglass High School, we’d love to hear from you! In addition to seeking volunteers for speaking opportunities such as MED Talk, we welcome job shadowing and field trip experiences. We are also very excited that beginning Fall 2018, the Academy of Medical and Emergency Services will be implemented within the Academies of Tates Creek High School.


To learn more about how you can support The Academies of Lexington, please contact:

Natalie Shepard

Partnership Manager, Business & Education Network




Designed for the Future: A Look Inside the Academies of Frederick Douglass High School

Imagine a high school that’s completely designed, engineered and built for the future of education. A high school that’s complete with a digital media lab that has the capacity to design its own virtual reality environments. One where every desk and chair is on wheels to facilitate teamwork and group learning. Where Chromebooks meet textbooks in every student’s backpack, and where blackboards are replaced by mobile interactive flat panel monitors to facilitate collaboration in flexible learning spaces. For students at the Academies of Frederick Douglass High School, this isn’t a glimpse into the future—it’s their everyday reality.

Frederick Douglass was conceptualized and constructed from the ground up in anticipation of the ongoing changes in technology, education and sustainability that lie ahead. The school was brought to life through a long-term collaboration among Fayette County Public Schools, Perkins + Will and Tate Hill Jacobs Architects which aimed to create a collaborative community that ensures all students achieve at high levels and graduate prepared to excel in a global society.

Photo provided by Tate Hill Jacobs Architects
Photo provided by Tate Hill Jacobs Architects

Currently, Frederick Douglass has implemented four Academies (or small learning communities), each of which has its own wing of the school and includes state-of-the-art features that facilitate Project-Based Learning (PBL).  For example, the Health Sciences Academy is equipped with real hospital beds and medical mannequins, offering students hands-on, real-world learning opportunities. Additionally, the Technology Academy features 3D printers and Oculus Rift VR headsets which allow students to go on virtual field trips without having to step outside of their Academy. Each Academy also features a common space for students and teachers to utilize both during and in between classes.

Susan Stokes Hill, principal emeritus at Tate Hill Jacobs Architects, said stepping back from the standard mode of programming and viewing the school from an emerging 21st Century perspective was key to the design process.

“We had to consider how this new school would support the most current, trending ideas of education for high school students while also providing flexibility for dynamic changes in the years ahead,” she said.

Photo provided by Tate Hill Jacobs Architects
Photo provided by Tate Hill Jacobs Architects

And this forward-thinking approach to architecture did not come about on its own. Hill noted that it was the result of a highly collaborative process including educators, administrators, student focus groups, teacher focus groups, design professionals and the community all working together to develop a new vision for the future of high school.

“We set forth to create a building that could inspire and change with the constantly evolving challenges of a new century, and to embrace the idea that student-led, teacher-facilitated learning is a pathway to developing critical thinking for the future,” said Hill.

Academy Coach Shawn Hinds added that the school’s approach to being future-ready spans beyond the building’s structure as the team at Frederick Douglass has all adopted a culture of transformative thinking. “I’m really proud of how all of our teachers have accepted the challenge of doing something different through our Academies. We started with a brand new team, and every single team member has supported the idea that we have to provide something different to our students. Our teachers are revolutionaries,” he said.

And it’s indeed Frederick Douglass’ new approach to education that has been lauded perhaps even more so than its high-tech facility. Seth Spears, who was previously homeschooled, actually enrolled at Douglass to experience public school for the very first time after learning about the Academy model. “My parents and I discovered the advantages of Academies and the opportunities that they open up, and that was a major draw. It’s also a plus that I will hopefully graduate with some college credit,” said Spears, a senior in the Health Sciences Academy.



Principal Lester Diaz was careful to note that the 287,125-square-foot building itself is only as good as what goes on within it. “It’s the philosophy behind Douglass that makes us special. Nothing is as important as our people—the passion and caring attitude that our students and teachers bring on a daily basis. That’s the foundation of our success,” remarked Diaz.

He also added that he’s been impressed by the level of responsibility and respect the students have shown toward their school. “Our students have embraced, accepted and excelled in the amount of freedom they have here at Douglass. They take pride in having a brand new school that is well-maintained and caters to their interests and futures.”


To learn more about the Academies of Frederick Douglass High School, please feel free to contact:

Frederick Douglass High School

Academy Coach Shawn Hinds




Natalie Shepard

Partnership Manager, Business & Education Network









Anything But Soft: 5 Success Skills Every Student Needs for the Future of Work

With technology changing faster than we can type, tweet or text about it, the future of work is becoming more competitive than ever. The next generation workforce must be equipped with the skills and tenacity needed to thrive in a 21st Century economy that’s evolving instantaneously. Yet, in the face of automation and technology, there are many skills that simply cannot be mastered by a computer or robot. It’s skills such as creativity, problem-solving and interpersonal communication that are only becoming more important to employers as advances in global innovation continue to impress upon us.

While the world often refers to these non-technical competencies as “soft skills,” we prefer to call them success skills because they truly are a must for anyone who aspires to succeed throughout life, college and careers. And with 44 percent of executives saying a lack of these skills is the biggest gap in the U.S. workforce, it’s clear that this topic warrants our attention.  In fact, even Google—the very epicenter of our internet and tech-driven world—has declared that for today’s students, STEM skills are simply not enough.

The good news is that the development of success skills (or “soft skills,” if you must) is a teachable discipline—one which stands at the forefront of our Academy model at Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek high schools. While our students are also busy developing the highly technical skills they need for the future, activities promoting critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity and other vital skills are a key component of our day-to-day curriculum.

These are just a few of the success skills our Academy students are challenged to sharpen every day:

1. Communication

Communication skills allow us to form strong relationships, confront difficult situations and express ourselves clearly. From gaining confidence in public speaking through presentations before their peers to conducting mock face-to-face interviews with each other, there is a deep emphasis on the importance of effective communication within all of our Academies.  In addition to mastering verbal and written communication techniques, students learn about non-verbal cues like body language and eye contact to get a more complete picture of the role that communication plays in all of our daily lives.

2. Creativity

A creative mindset is what sets us apart from others and makes us unique. In order to survive and grow in today’s fast-changing, competitive global landscape, our students must be able to think creatively to bring complex ideas to life.  Whether it’s through group brainstorming, expression through art or the encouragement of idea generation, we aim to model innovation and creativity through daily exercises and activities relating to real-world careers and real-life scenarios. And through Project-Based Learning (PBL), Academy students experience a more engaging, hands-on approach to education where not every assessment is in the form of a test.  

3. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving

When challenges arise, the ability to think critically, take action, troubleshoot and solve problems independently is key to resolution. Critical thinkers and problem solvers not only stand out in tough situations, they end up being top performers in their careers due to their ability to navigate unexpected challenges.  Whether it’s through using their imaginations, reasoning, research or other available resources, we aim for all of our Academy students to be able to tackle the difficult situations they will undoubtedly face after high school.

4.  Teamwork and Collaboration

To work well with others both today and in the future, our students must develop a cooperative spirit, understand the importance of mutual respect and learn to be team players.  Academies foster an environment of continuous teamwork and collaboration, which allows students to work closely with each other on a daily basis.  By working together, interacting and sharing ideas, students within all of our small learning communities learn from each other and build on one another’s strengths, while developing new perspectives and fresh ideas. We also encourage students to utilize available tools and resources that promote real-time digital collaboration and teamwork.

5. Leadership

Leaders inspire, empower and motivate others to reach their full potential. We know that leaders are a tremendous asset both at school and in the workforce. That’s why we aim to develop leadership qualities in all of our Academy students, encouraging them to take responsibility for making things happen. From the moment our freshmen make their Commitment to Graduate, we instill the value of the hard work, dedication and self-advocacy in shaping our future leaders.  Also emphasizing the importance of failing forward, we encourage every Academy student to not be afraid to take risks, to learn from their mistakes and to never be afraid to ask questions.


To learn more about how we’re doing education differently, please visit academiesoflex.com or feel free to reach out to:


Natalie Shepard
Partnership Manager, Business & Education Network

Bryan Station High School
Heather Zoll Eppley
859.381.3308, ext 2012

Frederick Douglass High School
Shawn Hinds

Tates Creek High School
Amanda Wickersham
859.381.3620, ext 1307


More Than a Diploma: Preparing Students for Life After High School

Graduation day is one of the most exciting times of every high schooler’s academic journey. It’s a time for students, teachers, friends and families to celebrate years of hard work and achievements. And whether a graduate plans to attend college, begin working immediately, or do both—it’s a day that signifies the start of a new adventure that awaits.

Before we know it, our 2018 Academy seniors here in Lexington will be walking across the stage to accept their own diplomas. Yet, what they walk away with is actually so much more than just a diploma. At The Academies of Lexington, our students graduate with experiences and opportunities they will carry with them throughout life, college and careers.

As a partnership between Fayette County public high schools, students, families, educators, businesses, and community partners, Academies offer students more personalized learning experiences that help them find their own future paths to success. Between 2018 and 2021, students at Frederick Douglass, Bryan Station and Tates Creek high schools will be the first Academy graduates in our district—and we can’t wait to keep up with where life takes them after they cross the stage.

Here are just a few of the ways an Academy graduate’s education is different:


They have real-world, industry experience

Academy students have access to a wealth of hands-on learning opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom. By taking field trips to local businesses and organizations that relate to their Academy, they can solidify or reevaluate their interest in a particular career path. And through job shadowing, students gain a better understanding of the everyday realities of particular professions—all while connecting what they’re learning at school to real-life applications.

Academy seniors can also complete internships to get a real idea of what it would be like to work in specific careers. For example, when Bryan Station IT Academy Senior Zach Ball completed his summer internship at Edvergent Learning, a K-12 focused Learning Management System in Lexington, he was able to see how technology is being used to better connect teachers and students to educational resources online. From discovering concepts like data mining to seeing how Edvergent trains teachers to use software, Zach walked away from his internship with a true understanding of what a tech job can look like. Even better, the experience helped open Zach’s eyes to his true passion—which he now knows is to pursue a career in education.


They earn certifications to work in in-demand, promising careers

Students in certain Academies will actually graduate with career-specific certifications that enable them to enter the workforce as soon as they’d like. For example, students in Health/Medical Sciences Academies can walk away from high school certified to work in positions such as:

  • EKG Technician
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • State Registered Nursing Assistant / Medicaid Nurse Assistant

And these types of real-world career certifications are not limited to students who are interested in the medical industry. For example, Technology Academy students can become Apple, Adobe or Microsoft Technology certified associates, and Business and Professional Services Academy students interested in teaching can complete their Praxis. In addition to receiving certifications like these, students can also earn college credit for many classes—bringing them one step closer to reaching their goals after high school.


They develop essential skills that will carry them through life

By developing a strong work ethic, problem solving abilities, collaborative nature, creativity and responsibility early on, Academy students will be well-prepared to enter college or the workforce. With a focus on leadership, adaptability and communication, Academies help students master the essential skills that will be crucial to success in all aspects of their lives.

And because Academy students thrive in small learning communities, they also benefit from a culture of teamwork and creative thinking, which allows them to discover and nurture their own individual talents. They experience a real and sustained support system provided by the Academy coaches, principals, teachers and peers who’ve been with them all along.

With these types of experiences and opportunities at their fingertips, our Academy students gain a head start on life in the real world. They’re able to “test drive” a career path that will either reaffirm their passions or help them discover new ones. So when our 2018 Academy graduates receive their diplomas in just a few short months, we can take tremendous pride in knowing that they are walking away with so much more than a piece of paper.


Learn more about what each Academy has to offer, visit academiesoflex.com.





Beyond the Classroom: Our Promise to Every Academy Student in Lexington

2017 was a milestone year for all of us at The Academies of Lexington. In addition to launching Academies within Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek high schools, we made history with our designation as a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community. But above all, we saw years of behind-the-scenes planning, dedication and passion come alive under the shared vision of educators, parents, students and businesses to truly transform public high school education in our city.

This New Year, we’re kicking 2018 off with not a resolution—but a promise. As we continue to conquer our own Academy goals, we are reminded that our students are the heartbeat of everything we do. They are the driving force and the energy behind our movement, inspiring us to continue to want more and work harder for the sake of their futures. So we begin this year by sharing The Academies of Lexington Pledge, which is our promise to each and every Academy student.





This is the pledge The Academies of Lexington makes to you. As a student of The Academies of Lexington, you are offered many opportunities to extend your learning beyond the classroom. You are encouraged to make the most of these opportunities, with the expectation you will graduate academically strong and:


  • Hopeful and prepared for your future.
  • Comfortable with taking risks and knowing how to fail-forward.
  • Open to a diverse view of the world.


  1. We promise you opportunities to explore a range of careers so you can make informed choices about your future, whether you are continuing your studies or going directly into the workforce.


  1. We promise to provide a variety of diverse opportunities and experiences to build your confidence and effectiveness as a communicator.


  1. We promise to develop and promote an environment where you think deeply with an open mindset, a willingness to listen, and a safe space to take risks.


  1. We promise to provide you with team experiences that foster trust, collaboration, communication, and accountability.


  1. We promise to model and empower you to make difficult, critical, and appropriate decisions necessary to thrive in a variety of situations.


  1. We promise to expand your knowledge of and appreciation for the arts through creative and culturally diverse experiences.


  1. We promise to broaden your local, regional, and global experiences.


  1. We promise to foster your sense of belonging as a dedicated and invested citizen through giving back to the community.



As we embark on the New Year, we look forward to celebrating new milestones, the continued growth of our movement, and most of all—the fact that we’re preparing our Academy students to graduate with so much more than a high school diploma.


We hope that you’ll continue to follow our journey to transform education, improve collegiate and workforce readiness, and benefit Lexington. To learn more about each of our Academies, or how you can get involved, follow us on social media or visit our website at academiesoflex.com. You can also contact Natalie Shepard, Partnership Manager, Business & Education Network, Commerce Lexington at nshepard@commercelexington.com or 859-226-1629.


The Academies of Bryan Station High School Cracks the Code for Girls in STEM

From the phones we use to the cars we drive, advances in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are touching nearly every aspect of our lives. As global innovation continues to propel us forward in all that we do, the need for STEM literacy has never been greater. In fact, by 2018 STEM fields in the U.S. are projected to grow by 18 percent compared to other fields, which are only projected to grow by 9 percent. Yet, despite this tremendous growth and availability of high-paying careers, it is also predicted that by 2018, 2.4 million of these jobs will remain unfilled due to the talent gap. So how can we bridge this gap to ensure a strong and skilled STEM workforce?

With women currently comprising only 24 percent of the STEM workforce, it is clear that the untapped potential of female talent is one powerful solution. To redefine the face of STEM, schools and initiatives nationwide are working hard to more proactively engage and encourage young women to explore their interests in the field.

The Academies of Bryan Station High School is one school in Lexington that proudly advocates for girls in STEM. Just ask Hunter Lane, a sophomore within Bryan Station’s Engineering, Manufacturing and Robotics Academy who is using her high school experience to blaze her own trails as a young woman in STEM.

In addition to tackling her everyday curriculum, which has allowed her to gain hands-on experience building and programming robots, Hunter is a founding member of Bryan Station’s Girls Robotics team. Joined by Bryan Station Middle School eighth-grader Corrinne Sharrard, the two-person team completed its first-ever competition at a VEX Robotics rookie event at the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering’s STEM Day in October. Corinne’s interest in in engineering and robotics can be traced to her mother, a mechanical engineer at Shrout, Tate and Wilson (STW) Mechanical and Electrical Engineers in Lexington.



“Hunter was the driver, and I was more behind-the-scenes working on programming,” said Corrine of the VEX Clawbot they constructed and used at the event. Hunter added, “the teamwork aspect is really necessary, especially at competitions.”

Bryan Station’s Girls Robotics team plans to compete in future competitions as well. And thanks to a grant through Girl Powered, an initiative to increase the representation of girls on robotics teams, the team now has the gear they need to succeed. The $1,300 grant provided a VEX Classroom and Competition Super Kit which includes an array of robotics and engineering tools such as sensors, motors, controllers and more.

Perhaps one of the girls’ biggest supporters is Bryan Station Technology and Engineering Teacher Rusty Wilhoitte, who proudly advocates for young women in STEM. Describing his own daughter as very hands-on and mechanical, Rusty Wilhoitte said encouraging female participation in STEM activities and education is crucial to future of engineering, manufacturing and robotics.

“By doing these projects themselves, they can see that they can do this stuff just as well as anybody else,” said Rusty. “It’s okay to get out there any try and fail. We learn more from failure than by getting things right the first time. Having the opportunity to fail in a safe space, and then make adjustments to be successful is what it’s about. For girls interested in learning more in these fields, my advice is to get in there, get your hands dirty and just try.”

Also offering important opportunities for young women interested in STEM is Bryan Station’s longest established Academy, the Academy of Information Technology (IT). As a NAF-certified Academy, the IT Academy encourages students to become leaders in IT through project and work-based learning experiences in the classroom and through job shadowing, internships, guest speakers, field trips, mentors, and special student-led community projects.

IT Academy Senior Destiny White said her Academy experience has helped her realize her interest in cybersecurity and computer forensics. “I find cyber criminals to be really interesting. There’s no easy way to figure things out—it’s an entirely new world to figure out,” she said. Destiny realized her interest in this fast-changing area of technology after attending the Kentucky Community Colleges Women in Computing conference, an opportunity offered to her by Bryan Station.

“It’s important for tech to be accessible to girls. Sometimes, I don’t think people consider how something will look to the opposite gender,” added LaMargaret Johnson, a sophomore who is just beginning her IT Academy journey at Station.

LaMargaret noted that the Academy model is not only offering her opportunities to master skills she’s interested in, such as graphic design, it’s providing her with an added support system of students focused on the same areas of study. “I have a whole set of friends that really want to learn the same things I’m learning. We supplement each other in different ways to help each other out if we don’t understand something,” she said.

As members of Bryan Station’s Student Technology Leadership Program (STLP), Destiny and LaMargaret utilize and create technology to solve school and community needs. By participating in STLP events and activities, their projects and services are showcased through local, regional and state events offering additional opportunities for continued growth and education.  As the only female members in Station’s STLP,  Destiny and LaMargaret are proud to be paving the way for more girls in technology.

“For some reason, we make technology scarier than it really is. It’s not this big scary thing. When we think of the internet or technology in general, it’s like this big unknown monster—but it’s really not,” added Destiny.

To learn more about how The Academies of Lexington are helping students connect what they’re learning in the classroom with real-world careers, visit our website at academiesoflex.com. If you’d like more information on the Academies of Bryan Station High School, feel free to contact Academy Coach Heather Zoll-Eppley at Heather.Eppley@fayette.kyschools.us or at 859.381.3308, ex. 2012.







Mission: Exploration Offers Freshman Academy Students a Glimpse into Real-world Careers in Lexington

While our Freshman Academy students may not be quite ready to start working on their resumes yet, after attending our first annual career fair this November they are now one step closer to discovering their interests and identifying their own pathways to success. The event, called Mission: Exploration, allowed 1,500 ninth graders from Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek high schools to explore a breadth of industries and career opportunities right here in Lexington.

Professionals from nearly 40 local companies and organizations attended the event to offer students hands-on learning experiences, as well as open dialogue to discuss real-world careers. Hosted at Bryan Station High School, students were able to tour designated areas focused on in-demand industries such as Information Technology, Engineering, Trades, Medical, Professional Services and Emergency Services.

From learning how to extract DNA from strawberries at Alltech’s booth focused on biotechnology, to aiming and shooting real fire hoses with the Lexington Fire Department—Freshman Academy students got an inside look at what real professionals do in their careers. For many, the experience helped them identify which Academy they would like to choose after freshman year.

“I got to wrap an ankle, which leaned me toward wanting to be a sports trainer one day—so that was really fun,” said Frederick Douglass Freshman Hannah Fyffe of her experience with Eastern Kentucky University’s Athletic Training program representatives who showed students how to respond to sports injuries. “I knew I had an interest in the medical field, but after the career fair, I really knew.”

Bryan Station Freshman Kiara Hunter, who is also interested in the medical field added, “I realized that there is not just one type of job in each career field. There are so many different areas you can choose from.”

For Tates Creek Freshman Cassidy Porter, the experience spurred an interest in education. “The career fair inspired me to pursue my dream career in teaching,” she said.

Leading up to Mission: Exploration, students have been exploring their interests, studying careers and completing rigorous learning activities in their Freshman Seminar course to help them learn more about themselves, and ultimately, identify an Academy. By creating personal mission statements, completing personality and career assessments and establishing individual timelines, students were able to experience Mission: Exploration with a level of confidence in who they are and what they are drawn to.

“My freshman seminar has been so wonderful so far,” said Frederick Douglass Freshman Muna Al Shamdin. “It really makes you think ahead of yourself and your future. It has made me look beyond the doors of high school and think about what’s waiting for me in my career.”

The culmination of Freshman Seminar course is a final exam which includes a writing assignment that builds off of what they learned at Mission: Exploration. Beyond offering students a closer look at specific careers and the opportunity to speak one-on-one with local professionals, Mission: Exploration and Freshman Academy piques an important level of awareness that marks the beginning of a successful Academy journey.

“The biggest thing is that it gets them thinking,” said Frederick Douglass Academy Coach Shawn Hinds. “It gets them thinking about their future and how all of the pieces of their education connect to what they can do in specific careers. It’s about discovering what they do versus do not like.”

Tates Creek Academy Coach Amanda Wickersham echoed Shawn’s sentiments noting that the event was also a great way for students to interact with local industry partners, gain exposure to careers that are represented in their own community and further explore their personal career interests.

Bryan Station Freshman Ivan Hernandez added, “This event really got me thinking about how different careers work, and about all of the different opportunities. It was nice to experience new things that I didn’t know about before.”

If you or your business would like to learn more or get involved with The Academies of Lexington, please feel free to contact us on our website or reach out to:


Natalie Shepard

Partnership Manager, Business & Education Network

Commerce Lexington










Why Change and Why Now? Tates Creek High School Educators Explain the Benefits of Academies in Lexington

Amanda Wickersham
Meredith Bordas

For more than 16 years, Tates Creek High School’s Amanda Wickersham has dedicated her career to shaping the lives and education of students in Lexington. Prior to her current role as Academy Coach, she served as Department Chair, taught technology and engineering, and was a district liaison for the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). Describing Tates Creek as her “home away from home,” Amanda’s passion for providing high school students with the support they need spans far beyond the classroom.

And just a short walk down the hallway from Amanda at Tates Creek, you’ll find Freshman Academy Principal Meredith Bordas—a woman whose devotion to paving bright futures for students has been a force at the school since 2005. Her commitment to helping teenagers learn and grow throughout high school was solidified her first year of teaching when she taught ninth grade English. Since then, Meredith has served in various capacities including Language Arts Coach and Reading Specialist/Building Assessment Coordinator where she helps teachers incorporate literacy strategies into their classrooms.

Together, Meredith and Amanda have been championing The Academies of Lexington movement since launching Tates Creek’s Freshman Academy this fall. To increase awareness within the community about the transformative change that’s underway at the school they’re so proud of—we recently sat down with them to get their perspectives.

Q: Why do Academies matter so much for the future of education?

Amanda: I worry that we have not been serving our students to the fullest capacity. I want more for them. I want them to appreciate and understand the importance of what they are learning. We truly owe it to them. A student should not have to ask, “Why am I learning this?”

Academies help bridge that gap. Two of the foundational pieces of the Academy model are Project Based Learning (PBL) and work-based learning experiences. Teachers collaborate on both small scale PBL activities in individual classrooms, and large scale PBL across disciplines, which is statistically proven to engage students. Students also receive work-based learning experiences, which include job shadowing, internships, plus co-op and capstone projects—all of which add up to more interconnected and relevant learning.

Q: How will Academies enhance collegiate and workforce performance?

Amanda: The Academies model is a multifaceted approach that combines college preparation with a career focus. Students continue to receive rigorous academic instruction, but are also taught how their core classes are relevant in the real world.  Students will graduate with the academic knowledge base, and with the essential skills they’ll need to be productive in a working environment.

While Tates Creek currently only has a Freshman Academy, we look forward to moving toward a career-themed Academies model for all of our students beginning fall of 2018.

Q: Can you tell me more about Freshman Academy?

Meredith: Our Freshman Academy provides a nurturing environment in which our ninth graders can more smoothly transition to high school. All of our freshmen are divided into cadres with the average class size being smaller than usual, which allows our teachers to really get to know their students. In fact, I would say that our teachers have gotten to know these kids more in the last three months than they have in any given school year—and that’s really cool.

Our students are also really loving their Freshman Seminar course because they get to explore what they like, and think about what career path they may be interested in for the future. It’s also great because they are discovering that their voice is going to dictate a lot about their futures here at Tates Creek—and they won’t just be plugged into a schedule.

Q: How can the community get involved in the Academies of Lexington?

Meredith: A lot of times, we think it’s just educators who can help prepare our students for their futures. But, we also need the community to join in! We want our students to see good models of the real jobs that they can have after high school. We want them to see examples of how to be successful, how to carve their own paths, and how to get from Point A to Point B. Together, we can help our students prepare for life after high school beyond just walking across the stage. And the community can help our students answer that question of “What are you going to do after graduation?”

We need real-life professionals coming in and showing our students what success looks like. Every school in our district could use that, as well as continued support from parents in helping students discover their true interests.


If you’d like to continue the conversation with Amanda or Meredith, feel free to contact them directly:

Amanda Wickersham

Academy Coach




Meredith Bordas

Freshman Academy Principal




Learn more about how the Academies of Lexington are revolutionizing what school can be for students at Tates Creek, Bryan Station and Frederick Douglass high schools by visiting our website at academiesoflex.com.


Designation Day in Lexington: The Start of Education’s Most Powerful Movement

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, The Academies of Lexington, Fayette County Public Schools and the City of Lexington celebrated a tremendous milestone in a movement that’s been more than three years in the making. Together, we joined business leaders, students, educators and those who share our transformative vision, to celebrate our designation as a Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL) community.

Designation Day—which is the culmination of years of behind-the-scenes work—signifies the onset of profound change in education that will transform the public high school experience in Lexington.

To better prepare our students to thrive in a competitive, 21st Century economy, we have implemented small learning communities within Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek high schools. The Academies of Lexington are built on the framework developed by Ford NGL—which has been helping transform education in communities across the nation for more than a decade.

“We are here today to unlock the untapped potential and opportunity right here in Lexington,” said Daryl Smith, economic development project manager at LG&E and KU Energy, and chair elect of the Business and Education Network. “We are here to close the talent gap between high school education and our workforce needs. Community leaders, business leaders and students have read the stats, they’ve heard the call and are ready to make positive changes.”

FCPS Superintendent Manny Caulk echoed Smith’s sentiments, adding that “The Academies give students a voice and choice in their education. We are giving students opportunity to find what they are most passionate about and then tailor their high school experience to support the direction that they choose for themselves.” Caulk also noted that Academies will benefit businesses by allowing them to have a hand in shaping the future workforce.

After completing Freshman Academy, students can select a learning pathway of interest within in-demand industries such as Technology, Healthcare, Engineering or Professional Services. Also helping students connect what they’re learning in the classroom with real-world career applications, Academy-style education offers a more personalized, engaging learning experience.

Sharing personal insights on the impacts of Academies, Executive Director of Ford NGL Cheryl Carrier emphasized the incredible ways in which our students are learning. “They will be working on the most authentic projects with business partners. They will be engaged in teams, and developing the 21st Century skills that we need to work and survive life in general,” she said.

Also celebrating the launch of The Academies of Lexington was Mayor Jim Gray, who described the Ford NGL community designation as a “big milestone in our city’s 242-year history.”

Beyond our deep appreciation for the support from the community, we were touched by the personal stories of students from Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek who bravely shared their Academy experiences before peers, school administrators, business and community leaders.

From Bryan Station IT Academy senior Malik Locke’s aspirations to work in Cybersecurity, to Frederick Douglass Health Sciences Academy junior Arianna Black’s goals of becoming a neonatal nurse—hearing their powerful stories was a testament of how Academies are preparing our students to succeed in life after high school. And as Tates Creek freshman James McKenzie shared, his journey to self-discovery and finding his future is beginning now in his Freshman Academy.

While Designation Day has come and gone, the opportunity to join our movement is happening in real-time, right now. To learn more about each of our Academies, or how you can get involved, follow us on social media or visit our website at http://academiesoflex.com/.