These Business Leaders are Committed to Tackling Lexington's Talent Gap Through Education

With its scenic landscape, friendly culture and healthy economic conditions, it’s no surprise that Lexington, Kentucky is often included in lists that highlight America’s best places to live. Taking great pride in our city, most Lexingtonians would agree that continued growth and prosperity across schools, industry and the workplace are of deep importance for our community.

And the good news is—there’s a lot of positive momentum underway in the region to feel good about. Results from the Bridging the Talent Gap survey indicate that Kentucky business expansion and job growth are on the rise. In fact, 86 percent of manufacturers, 70 percent of health care businesses and 80 percent of professional, scientific and technical services companies are expecting growth in their sectors in the next three to five years. Yet, 84 percent of companies admit to having a difficult time hiring qualified workers.

As the widely-reported talent gap continues to touch nearly every sector across cities nationwide, business and community leaders in Lexington are looking to education as a critical part of the solution. Initiatives like The Academies of Lexington are now offering a hands-on, career-based approach to education across Bryan Station, Frederick Douglass and Tates Creek high schools, to help students not only discover their interests—but graduate high school more prepared for college, careers and life.

Eric Sauvage meets with Academy ambassadors for a VIP tour of The Academies of Bryan Station High School.

Eric Sauvage, president and CEO of Lexington-based LBX Company and Chair of the Business and Education Network (BEN) board, says that he has no doubt Academies will help our community find common goals to bridge the talent gap in Lexington.

“We have some serious gaps we need to address within our community between the education we’ve been offering our children—and the current and future expectation from the business world,” said Sauvage. “There is no doubt in my mind that The Academies of Lexington will help our community find common goals to ensure that we close those gaps.”

He added that his company, which sells Link-Belt hydraulic excavators, scrap/material handlers, demolition equipment and forestry equipment for the construction industry, is feeling the effects of the talent gap in Lexington.

“In our business, it’s very difficult to recruit high school graduates with basic technical knowledge, who aspire to become technicians to troubleshoot our machines, learn about our industry and further grow within our organization,” he said.

Daryl Smith (far right), and Eric Sauvage (right) discuss career pathways with ambassadors from The Academies of Bryan Station High School. Smith is a Bryan Station alumnus.

Daryl Smith, Economic Development Project Manager at LG&E and KU Energy LLC and Chair-Elect of the board at BEN, added that the future prosperity of industry in our region is dependent upon businesses finding the talent they need to stay competitive.

“We live in a fast-changing, competitive global marketplace, and businesses are increasingly in need of employees with entrepreneurial grit and adaptability,” said Smith. “As we go forward in time, it’s absolutely critical that our area produces the high quality talent that will enable our businesses to continue to thrive, and allow our region to remain one of the top performers in the country.”

Academy students in Lexington can explore careers and receive hands-on training and experience across the following in-demand industries:

  • Engineering, Manufacturing and Robotics
  • Information Technology
  • Health/Medical Sciences
  • Leadership and Professional Services

Some students, such as those in the Health/Medical Sciences Academies at Bryan Station and Douglass, will even graduate with certifications that will allow them to enter the Medical workforce immediately after high school. And, with the impending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation—the availability of skilled workers who are ready to tackle highly specialized careers across industries is more important than ever.

Both Smith and Sauvage added that Lexington businesses have the opportunity to help build a stronger pipeline of skilled workers by getting involved with The Academies of Lexington.

“We have a chance to partner with the community to design an educational system that will increase graduation rates and propel students to success in postsecondary education, and ultimately, the workplace,” said Smith. “Now is the time for the business community to get involved to ensure our pipeline of future workers is strong.”

Sauvage continued, “I strongly believe that if businesses became engaged through externships for teachers, partnerships with Academy schools—including their involvement in training and certification processes—that our children will be energized, motivated and passionate during their high school years. In turn, businesses will know what to expect from those students when looking for candidates to fill job openings.”

If 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:


Business and Education Network
Betsy Dexter, Executive Director

Fayette County Public Schools
Kim Lyon, Strategic Partnership Manager

What Academy Coach Heather Zoll Eppley Wants You to Know About the Academies of Bryan Station High School

When you walk into the Academies of Bryan Station High School, what you see and hear on campus may surprise you. As a wall-to-wall Academy school, Bryan Station offers students a high school experience that’s unique to their own personal interests and career aspirations. You may discover culinary students busy prepping and cooking meals in the Defender Café, learning everything from seasoning techniques to menu planning. Or, you may stumble upon engineering students coding and operating robots—or even see pre-nursing students practicing medical procedures on patient dummies.

These types of hands-on, work-based learning opportunities not only prepare Academy students for life outside of high school—they inspire and engage them. For example, research shows that when students focus on a particular field of interest in education, they are more likely to stay in school.  And, in addition to Academies having positive impacts on high school students’ motivation, graduation rates, postsecondary enrollment, and career outcomes—they make learning more relevant and fun.

Bryan Station High School Academy Coach Heather Zoll Eppley recently sat down with us to discuss how Academies are revolutionizing what public high school education can be in our city. From preparing students to be successful in the 21st Century economy, to uniting schools within the community—the Academies of Lexington movement is a catalyst for real and powerful change in education.

Here’s what Heather, who’s been in education for more than 12 years, had to say:

Q: Why do you so strongly support Academy-style education in Lexington?  

A: I truly believe that the academy model makes a difference for students. Through my previous work with the IT Academy, I have seen students thrive, explore, and grow in a way that I haven't seen in the traditional high school model. It makes real-world connections and provides wraparound support for students in such a powerful way. 

Q: How do Academies enhance collegiate and workforce performance?

A: The great part about Academies is that they allow students to explore career and college opportunities in a safe space. We all know that it takes hard work and practice to be great at something, so it only makes sense to allow our students to learn in that way, as they prepare for both career and college. 

Q: How do Academies connect academics with real-world careers?

A: Our Academies are approaching teaching and learning in a different way. The goal is to use the skills and knowledge from the academic side, and apply it to real-world problems that business professionals encounter every day. Our business partners are playing a pivotal role in making this type of hands-on learning a reality!

Q: What has the response been from parents, students and the community so far?

A: Our community has been very receptive to the transition to wall-to-wall Academies. I have had so many former students and parents say that they wish it would have happened sooner so they could experience it!

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

A: There are so many ways to get involved that range from short-term to long-term commitments—all of which would make a huge impact on students. I would love to connect with anyone who would like to work with our students. If that is something that would be of interest to you, please email me directly at, or call me at 859.381.3308, ex. 2012.

 To learn more about how the Academies of Lexington are helping students discover and prepare for their futures, visit our website at You can also explore Bryan Station High School’s various Academies and Pathways here.

We hope that you will continue to follow us as we share the incredible impacts the Academies of Lexington are having on our community.


5 Times Academies of Lexington Students Took Hands-on Learning to the Next Level

Imagine stepping foot into a classroom where students are immersed in interactive learning experiences, and are busy exploring a field of study that actually interests them. They are surrounded by a tight-knit group of peers and teachers, who not only support their ambitions—but connect their academic experiences with real-world careers and hands-on applications. At the Academies of Lexington, this vision is very much a reality and is currently underway in classrooms throughout Frederick Douglass, Bryan Station and Tates Creek high schools.

By diving into Project Based Learning (PBL) activities first-hand, Academy students benefit from engaging and relevant learning experiences that better prepare them for the future. Whether they decide to pursue post-secondary education after high school, or go directly into the workforce, they graduate with so much more than a diploma.

With PBL being a benchmark of the Academies of Lexington, our students are constantly experiencing next-level education—but here are five times we were blown away by their zest, enthusiasm and passion for discovery.


1. When Health Science Academy students practiced transporting people from higher floors of buildings during Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class

Students in Jeremy Miller’s class at Douglass are getting firsthand experience learning lifesaving skills that will be critical to any future EMT. From practicing how to respond when arriving on the scene of an emergency, to interacting with Mr. Miller as a mock 911 operator, the EMT pathway offers a hand-on approach to gaining real-world experiences.


2. When Engineering Academy students built a chair strong enough to support the weight of an adult...using only cardboard

 Bryan Station’s Engineering, Manufacturing and Robotics Academy students teamed up to design and construct chairs made of cardboard—and nothing else!—that are strong enough to hold their teacher, Mr. Willhoite. Unbelievably, brothers Shared and Sanjay Patel’s chair took only one hour to complete!


3. When Academy students explored the world using Virtual Reality (VR) goggles

With View-Master Deluxe VR goggles, Douglass students can explore a 360-degree view of anywhere in the world—allowing them to take fully-immersive field trips wherever they can imagine. Using a smartphone-based VR viewer, the goggles not only enhance learning activities, they take students to destinations they may not be able to experience otherwise.


4. When Academy students were prepared to conduct on-camera interviews during Video Studio Fundamentals class

In Mr. Alcala’s Video Fundamentals course at Douglass, students in the 10th to 12th grade have been learning how to handle videotaped interviews—covering everything from how to respond on camera, to utilizing high-tech camera equipment.


5. When Freshman Academy students planned an entire wedding in their Life Skills class

Planning a wedding is no easy feat—just ask Tates Creek Freshman Academy students in Ms. Mullins’ Life Skills class! From planning menus, to organizing a deejay and a color theme, no detail was left unturned in the mock wedding ceremonies that were flawlessly executed by ninth graders in the school’s library.  The project was the finale to the course's relationship unit, which covered everything from personal development and friendships to dating, parenting, middle age, and retirement.


In addition to promoting critical thinking, memory and creativity among students, PBL allows teachers to increase engagement in their classrooms and provide more interconnected learning experiences that truly prepare students to thrive in the 21st-Century economy. We can’t wait to keep up with the incredible things that our Academy students are achieving every day, and hope you’ll join us in our movement to transform public high school education in Lexington.

To learn more about how you or your student can get involved with the Academies of Lexington, visit our website.

How Academies are Giving Lexington Freshmen More Positive Transitions to High School

The thrill of the first day of school can be both exciting—and terrifying—no matter where a student is in their journey. From navigating new buildings to facing brand new teachers, courses and responsibilities—every new academic beginning presents its own unique challenges and triumphs.

Perhaps the most notable shift in expectations, surroundings and curriculum occurs during a student’s transition from middle school to high school. In addition to social and logistical adjustments, freshmen are faced with increasing workloads, new goals and obligations, which can be very intimidating to even the most prepared adolescent.

Freshman Academy at Bryan Station High School


And with research showing that ninth grade is one of the most important academic years in students’ lives, it’s critical that educators, families and community leaders stand together to provide our freshmen with the educational experiences they deserve. That is why promoting a positive, exciting transition from middle school to high school is one of the cornerstones of the Academies of Lexington.

Freshmen at Tates Creek, Bryan Station and Frederick Douglass high schools are the first generation of Lexington ninth graders who will benefit from an Academy-style education. Experiencing high school from a new perspective, Freshman Academy students thrive in small learning communities with a dedicated principal, counselor and core group of teachers and peers.

How Freshman Academies offer more positive transitions to high school

  • Ninth graders develop leadership skills, identify and nurture their strengths, and discover new interests by engaging in team-based activities.
  • Hands-on projects and workshops help freshmen learn essential skills for today and the future.
  • Small teams of students and teachers offer more personalized learning experiences.
  • Students are encouraged to explore future career possibilities at interactive events and expos like Mission Exploration, taking place on Nov. 15.
  • Field trips to college campuses provide students with a firsthand look at higher education early on.

From start-to-finish, Freshman Academy students are able to explore the possibilities of the world around us and discover their own individual pathways to success. Below is a snapshot of what a year at Freshman Academy looks like at an Academies of Lexington high school.

Freshman Academy at-a-glance

All Year

All freshmen complete the Freshman Seminar course. Along with career exploration and development, this year-long course teaches essential success skills including:

  • How to take initiative and responsibility
  • Effective teamwork and communication
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving

Fall Semester

Held in the beginning of the first semester, the Commitment to Graduation ceremony is a time when students make a pledge to themselves, their classmates, and their families, that they will work hard to complete high school in four years. Later in the fall, the Academies of Lexington career expo, Mission Exploration, allows students to meet local business professionals, experience hands-on demonstrations, and learn more about future career options.

To learn more about the Freshman Academy at Tates Creek, Bryan Station or Frederick Douglass high schools, visit, or feel free to reach out to the Freshman Academy team at each school.


Freshman Academy contacts

Academies of Tates Creek High School
Meredith Bordas, Freshman Academy Principal
Megan Majors, Freshman Academy Counselor

Academies of Bryan Station High School
Meocha Williams, Freshman Academy Principal
Fred Snodgrass, Freshman Academy Principal
Dana Lawrence, Freshman Academy Counselor
Yvette Thompson, Freshman Academy Counselor

Academies of Frederick Douglass High School
Josh Williams, Freshman Academy Principal
Susan McVey, Freshman Academy Counselor

Academy Coach Shawn Hinds Explains Why Douglass is Doing Education Differently

Students on a TV setSince launching this fall, there’s been a lot of excitement about what the Academies of Lexington are doing for public education in our city. From providing students with more relevant, engaging learning experiences to empowering educators to transform teaching—the initiative is inspiring students, teachers, families and the community to take a closer look at education.

As we begin to share our journey with you, we’ll be sitting down with the people whose passion and commitment for the future of our generation is helping the Academies of Lexington take flight. Today, we’re speaking with Frederick Douglass High School Academy Coach Shawn Hinds to get a closer look at what’s happening at Douglass, and why it matters so much.

Opened in the fall of 2017, Frederick Douglass High School was designed for an Academy-style education from inception. Each Academy is housed in its own wing and includes top-of-the-line technology and innovative, Academy-specific features like real hospital beds in the Academy of Health Sciences. It all adds up to an interconnected learning experience that’s unique to Douglass.

With more than nine years of experience in education, Shawn is dedicated to challenging teachers, students and community leaders to look at education differently.

Q: Why are you so passionate about this initiative? 

A: This initiative is great because it finally helps teachers answer a question that we get from students all the time, which is, “Why do I need to know this?”

By connecting what our students learn in classes—like English and Math—to something they are interested in—like Medicine or Law—we are truly able to engage them and show them why school is relevant in the “real world.”

Q: Can you tell us more about how the Academies will enhance collegiate and workforce performance?

A: Our Academy graduates not only receive a high school diploma—they can graduate with an industry certification and an education centered around critical thinking, collaboration and other important life skills. The Academies are positioned to provide students with everything they need to succeed after high school, whether they choose to enter the workforce immediately or go to college.

Q: How are the Academies linking academics with real-world careers and hands-on applications?

A: Academy teachers from across disciplines work together to develop lessons that merge their unique content. For example, in our Academy of Health Sciences, students might read articles about diseases from the Journal of the American Medical Association while studying Pathology in Biomedical Sciences, and Medical Math in Math class. This gives our students a real-world, interconnected application for content that they need to learn.

Q: What has the response been from parents, students and the community so far?

A: Parents, students, and our business partners are all excited about the possibilities for our students. They see the Academies as a way to prepare students for the future. Parents especially love the fact that their students get to explore various careers in high school, giving them the chance to discover what they like and what they don’t like early on—which can save costs associated with changing majors in college.

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

A: This is a community-wide initiative and it will take support from everyone who has a stake in Lexington’s future. Reach out to me, or one of the other Academy Coaches, if you’re interested in learning more about how you can support the Academies of Lexington.

If you’d like to continue the conversation with Shawn, feel free to contact him at (859) 381- 3780 or

You can learn more about how the Academies of Lexington are revolutionizing what school can be for public high school students by visiting our website at Stay tuned as we continue to highlight the amazing things our students are learning and achieving right here in Lexington.

How the Academies of Lexington are Transforming Public High School Education

Ask almost any high school parent, and they will tell you that the world today looks nothing like it did just twenty years ago. The rapid evolution of technology, automation and the internet has touched every aspect of our lives—from the way we communicate, to how we work and learn. So then why has public education stayed largely the same? And how can we expect our students to thrive in decades-old learning environments—while the world moves boldly forward?

These questions (and so many more) have spurred a new wave of thinking that’s transforming public education in our city, from the ground-up. The Academies of Lexington are small learning communities within Fayette County Public Schools that allow all students to connect what they’re learning in the classroom with real-world applications.

As a partnership between Fayette County public high schools, students, families, educators, businesses, and community partners, the initiative offers students an educational experience that’s as innovative, immersive and engaging as the world around us. Through new approaches to deeper learning and a more personalized educational experience, Academy students graduate high school ready to find their future path to success.

Frederick Douglass High School, Bryan Station High School and Tates Creek High School are the first schools in the county to join the movement, igniting a deep interest in the community to learn exactly what the buzz is all about.

Here are just a few ways that Academies are doing education differently:

  1. Students receive a more personalized educational experience in small learning communities

Academies students realize their potential in tight-knit learning communities where they can learn and grow, surrounded by peers and teachers who know and cultivate their strengths. Small learning communities allow both students and teachers to have a voice, and more closely collaborate on projects.

  1. Hands-on, project-based learning offers more relevant, engaging experiences

With project-based learning (PBL), students are the star of the classroom as teachers facilitate more meaningful, hands-on projects built around the needs of today’s ever-changing world. In addition to offering deeper learning experiences, research has shown that PBL increases students’ motivation and positively impacts students’ achievements.

  1. Students are better prepared for life after high school

Academies improve collegiate and workforce readiness by helping students develop skills like a strong work ethic, problem solving abilities, personal presentation, collaboration, creativity and responsibility. By exposing them to a variety of industries, creating opportunities for college credits, internships and industry certifications— Academies students graduate high school ready to make more informed decisions about their future.

  1. Academies build a better workforce and stronger community in Lexington

By more fully preparing students for life after high school, Academies are building a better workforce—which in turn will draw new businesses to our city, making Lexington a better place to live, learn, and work.  The initiative also offers a unique way for businesses to give back to the community while helping generate a supply of talented workers who are ready to fill the roles that are most needed by local businesses and industries.

The Academies of Lexington are built on the framework developed by Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), which has been helping transform education in communities across the country for over a decade.

Not only does an Academy education help students discover their passions and connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the real-world—it delivers real, big-picture results for families and communities, including:

  • Increased high school graduation rates
  • Increased academic achievement
  • Improved preparation for college, careers and life
  • Increased earning potential
  • Strengthened talent pipeline
  • Increased number of students graduating from high school with industry certifications and college credits

Learn more about what each Academy has to offer, and discover how you or your student can get involved by visiting