Lynn Camp hosts ‘GradNation’

Rita Wood with Chrystal Bentley, a Knox Central student, and Victoria Broughton, a Lynn Camp High School student, spoke of changes they would like to see in the classroom. Photo by Bobbie Poynter
Rita Wood with Chrystal Bentley, a Knox Central student, and Victoria Broughton, a Lynn Camp High School student, spoke of changes they would like to see in the classroom.
Photo by Bobbie Poynter
Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear addresses the crowd.  Photo by Bobbie Poynter
Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear addresses the crowd.
Photo by Bobbie Poynter

“You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”

–Tyler Rice

“It’s our schools that are failing, not our students,” said First Lady of Kentucky Jane Beshear at the GradNation Summit on Monday. “The educational system that I grew up in is not working today. We have a segment of young people that are just flat bored in school.”

On the other hand, Beshear spoke of some major improvements in Kentucky’s education legislation, including Senate Bill 97, better known as “Graduate Kentucky.” This Bill raised the legal age at which a student can drop out of high school to 18 years, giving them a better chance of receiving a high school diploma.

And in 2012, Kentucky passed House Bill 37, creating “Districts of Innovation.” This legislation allows schools to apply to be exempt from certain regulations, so they can choose their own teaching methods and how they run their own day-to-day operations. Thanks to bills like these, Kentucky continues to take tremendous strides.

“Education is the foundation of where we go in the community, state and nation,” she said.

A recent Harvard Study ranked Kentucky eighth in improvement. In the 2012-2013 year, Kentucky’s graduation rate was 86 percent, compared to the national average of 80 percent. Beshear admits, “We’ve set the bar high, but we need to keep it high. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a change in a child’s life.”

Guest speaker Hasan Davis, former Kentucky Commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice, warned of the dangers of forgetting the remaining 14 percent of students who do not graduate.

“Some argue that keeping ‘bad kids’ in school only prolongs the inevitable. It costs tax money, time and resources, but what about the cost to the community?” According to Davis, as of last year, Kentucky spends $100,000 per child every year to house them in secure facilities, such as juvenile detention centers. He emphasized, “That last step away from the school house is the first step towards the jail house.”

Davis admits that in his younger years he was “That Kid.” Growing up with ADHD and surrounding himself with less-than-ideal company, he quickly developed a bad reputation. He had a criminal history at the age of 11, got expelled from a private high school, and was involved in multiple fights. He said the turning point was when his mother dropped him off at Berea College, his last chance for a college degree, and said “it’s time to decide who was right about you and who was wrong.” Davis goes on to list his successes, but credits it all to the one voice of support among the many voices of doubt.

Local high school students participating in the day’s events agreed that support from family and educators is the main motivation in their scholastic careers.

Among them, Tyler Rice, a Knox Central High School student, told the attendees, “Support is the one word I would use to describe what education means to me. It means giving me the strength to move on after bad situations, living united with me, and just having patience.” He went on to say, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.”

As the Summit came to an end, Hasan Davis took the stage and implored the audience to not just think about change, but to get involved in their community and make it happen.

“Faith and hope are not substitutes for action,” he said, “they are the fuel.”

It seems the idea may have taken hold in some community members. Monica Clouse, Union College Director of Community and Foundation Relations said, “It was exciting and inspiring to see so many community members supporting Knox County and the surrounding areas.”

Rich Prewitt, Cumberland Valley Electric’s Director of Economic Development, Marketing and Member Services who is also a retired teacher from Knox Central, agreed.

“I’m impressed with the number of diverse people interested in the future of Knox County kids. It leaves me optimistic about our kids’ future.”