KSBA’s First Degree program fulfills its promise

Kentucky School Advocate
October 2017

By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff writer

Every year since 2012, two bright-eyed, proudly smiling high school seniors have crossed the stage of the Galt House ballroom in Louisville to receive their KSBA First Degree Scholarship awards. Recommended by their schools based on academic criteria, as the eponymous scholarship indicates, they are the first in their immediate family who would receive a postsecondary degree.

What has happened to them since that moment when they were being congratulated and having their picture taken in front of 1,000 KSBA annual conference goers? Are they fulfilling their dreams? We caught up with a few, and the results prompted former KSBA President Tom Blankenship to marvel: “I’m just very impressed, very gratified that they’ve done as well as they have. I’m very proud of them.”

Blankenship spearheaded the establishment of the program in 2011 by the association’s Board of Directors. It is made possible by funding from a variety of sources, ranging from individual donations to corporate sponsorships. Blankenship said he was prompted to suggest the scholarship to fill a gap, since the association has long recognized outstanding board members and superintendents.

“We all work for the students, and why not recognize students?” he explained.
Kevin Haney, 2012 winner,
Estill County High School

California dreamin’

Livin’ the dream.

That’s a catchphrase that’s often uttered with sarcasm. In Kevin Haney’s case, it reflects reality. In high school, he said he traveled to Los Angeles for an FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) event, “and just loved California.” He dreamed about living there and working for one of the big tech companies.
Estill County High School alumnus Kevin Haney in the Tesla Inc. offices in San Francisco, where he is a team member on the technology help desk. (Photo submitted) 

At University of Kentucky, he was in a new major, Information Communication Technology, later becoming president of the program’s student organization and working at UK’s student-run information technology help desk. In his last semester, all his classes were online; he took advantage of that by starting his job search early, figuring if he found employment, he could complete his degree while working.

He said he ended up with a job offer from Tesla, the electric car company, in San Francisco, “and managed online classes while moving across the country and getting started at Tesla.” Haney works on the company’s tech help desk.

“I work on a team that provides 24/7, 365 support for all Tesla employees, retail and corporate both. We do day-to-day support, whatever issues come up, anything from a minor, ‘My password’s not working’ to a line down issue that’s affecting production that we of course have to escalate,” he said. “Never a dull moment, always something exciting going on.”

“It’s definitely not a place where I feel like I’m going to get bored,” Haney added.

His rough initial transition to UK, where he struggled during his freshman year to balance classes and a job, paid off because it taught him how to handle difficult situations. “You find ways to cope with it, step back and re-evaluate the situation,” he said.

When he was dreaming of the West Coast back in high school, he didn’t know much about Tesla, but learned a bit about it in college. Still, he said, “I could not have imagined I am where I’m at.”
Makayla McNew, 2013 winner,
Laurel County High School

Prescribing her future

Makayla McNew is on a fast track. She graduated at the top of her class at Alice Lloyd College, earning a bachelor’s degree in biological science in just three years. Her AP classes in high school prepared her well, she said, and she also was a teacher’s assistant and tutor for a basic math and algebra teacher at Alice Lloyd.

McNew then interviewed at all four of the pharmacy schools to which she applied, deciding on University of Kentucky.

For the last year or so, McNew has worked as a part-time weekend pharmacy technician – now a pharmacy intern because she is in UK’s pharmacy program – at West Knox Pharmacy in Corbin. Owner Jennifer Baker established the relatively new independent pharmacy, which offers compounding services, and said McNew helped her set it up. “She has been a huge part of the success that has gone on in this pharmacy,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Makayla McNew counts pills to fill a prescription at her weekend job as a
pharmacy intern at a Corbin pharmacy. A Laurel County High School alumnae,
McNew is in her first year at University of Kentucky’s pharmacy school.
Now in her first year at UK’s four-year pharmacy school, McNew hopes to specialize in neurology or oncology. That will mean an extra two years of residency, “but it’s something I want to do so it’s worth it.”

That specialization will likely see her working in a hospital setting. “I’ll be working in a hospital mixing special medications and consulting with doctors and surgeons and going on rounds with them,” she explained. “I find that really cool because I get the patient interaction part of it, and I’ll get to talk to them after they leave the hospital, but then I also get to use what I’ve learned in chemistry and everything else I’ve learned in pharmacy school.”

McNew hopes to be able to practice in Kentucky, preferably Corbin or Richmond. “Family is a real big thing for me,” she said, “I want to be able to stay near them.”
Morgan Stephens, 2014 winner,
Fleming County High School
Caring and sharing

It was a banner day this past spring for Morgan Stephens, when she received her acceptance letter into the undergraduate Communication Sciences and Disorders program at University of Kentucky, among the 25 percent of applicants who won entry into the selective program.

This will put Stephens, a junior, onto her career pathway as a speech therapist or audiologist.

Morgan Stephens, a Fleming County High School graduate, proudly 
displays her acceptance letter to University of Kentucky’s undergraduate
Communication Sciences and Disorders program. (Photo submitted) 
At UK, Stephens co-teaches a class to help freshmen make the transition to college and last year was a peer mentor in her dorm, a Living Learning Program community for students with an interest in health care. Part of her duties was organizing community service projects for the students.

“I think it all stems back to what I feel my purpose is, what I want to be,” she said. “I want to be a health care professional because I love people and I want to help people. So I try to share that with other people and help them want to make a difference in their community and want to reach out and be a helping hand to somebody.”

The multitasking continues during the summer, when Stephens works with her dad on the family farm and continues to show cattle. “Trying to find a balance between that and school and all the other extracurriculars is just difficult, but I’ve been able to make it work,” she said.

Next year, Stephens will apply to graduate school. If she takes the audiology path, which she seems to be leaning toward, it will mean a doctoral program.

She took an introductory course in speech therapy last year that covered audiology. “The ear and the hearing part is something that always stuck with me, that I could remember easily and something I wanted to learn more about,” she said. Most students in her class want to be a speech therapist, Stephens said. “I’m kind of like the odd one out.”
Dustin Adams, 2011 inaugural winner,
Paintsville High School

No brain drain

Dustin Adams laughs when asked if he is “the cool teacher,” but it’s with a bit of recognition.

“I try to be,” he said. “I can relate to them pretty well. That’s the first thing I told them: ‘I’m not going to be like any math teacher you’ve ever had before.’”
Math teacher Dustin Adams helps out a student in one of his classes
at Paintsville High School, from which he graduated in 2012.
(Photo courtesy of Paintsville Independent Schools)

This is Adams’ second year of teaching math at Paintsville High School, where he graduated in 2012.

He went to Morehead State University, intending to go into engineering, which reflected his love of math, his strongest subject. “I like to have concrete answers,” he explained. But his now-wife, Katherine, was majoring in education “and she kind of talked me into it.”

“I changed to education, observed second grade and I loved it,” Adams said. “Second grade was a lot of fun and I got into a high school classroom and liked it even more and decided this was what I wanted to do.”

When he graduated, Paintsville High was looking for a math teacher, “so it kind of lined up perfectly,” he said, since he had thought about going home to teach. Katherine is a social studies teacher at Prestonsburg High School in Floyd County.

This year, he’s taken on an additional duty: boys varsity soccer coach. He hadn’t been a soccer player, but some of his students asked him to coach, and he dived in. “It’s enjoyable for sure,” he said.

Adams said the biggest challenge in teaching is the attitude of students. “Everyone comes in, everyone hates math and that’s the obstacle,” he said. “You’ve got to change their mindset, relate it back to something that interests them, which is really easy because I’m not too much older than them, so I can kind of figure out and relate to their interests.”
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