Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Local schools kick off new program

By Dariush Shafa, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 12:01 AM CDT
A local education experiment is now officially under way, as students at two local high schools attended their first Community Campus classes Monday morning.

Community Campus is a collaborative effort between local colleges, school districts and private businesses to create an academy-based educational system. Five academies will target specific content areas to give students education in those areas along with practical and applicable experience.

Two of the academies are now active, with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academy being based at Apollo High School and run in cooperation with Owensboro Community & Technical College. The Fine Arts academy is based at Owensboro High School and run in cooperation with the RiverPark Center. The other three academies are scheduled to become active in the next two years.

Aaron Yeiser, the community campus STEM instructor at Apollo High School, said students in his Community Campus class show more motivation. Of his 25 students in the Community Campus class, Yeiser said 20 of them are from outside of Apollo, Yeiser said.

“They feel special, that they’re unique. They know they are pushing themselves ahead of others,” Yeiser said. “I’ve always had a mix of some who want to be here, want to learn and have a technical interest, and then some who just got stuck here. With Community Campus, they all want to be here. That alone makes the environment different.”

Carolyn Greer, drama teacher at the Fine Arts academy at OHS, said that sense of belonging has had an impact on her students that she thinks will most positively impact the group work that is necessary with theater and acting classes.

“It’s a good group of kids. They got along instantly. They immediately had something to talk about,” Greer said. “That’s always a really good sign they’ll be open to working together.”

Greer said the academy brings talented students she might not otherwise have had the opportunity to teach.

“It’s new for me to be working with juniors and seniors I haven’t already been with for two years,” Greer said.

Yeiser said he believes this can turn into a revolutionary way of teaching students.

“It has the potential to be a new style of education in our community. Where bigger cities have charter schools and magnet schools, this is a different approach to the same outcome,” Yeiser said.

“The expectation is that it’s going to be something that helps them grow,” Greer said. “This is a chance for the kids to have a different experience.”

Dariush Shafa, 691-7302,