Each year, each district can send nine students to iLEAD’s freshman class. iLEAD, which currently has 33 juniors, 27 sophomores and 39 freshmen, has a capacity of 180 students.
According to iLEAD Academy’s PEAK Award application, “students apply for admission to iLEAD. There is not an academic admissions standard. Students are selected who demonstrate capacity to manage their own learning and focus on career goals.”
Each student remains a student of record at their home district.
“It has exceeded my expectations for Owen County to have that many students applying to go and staying there as students. It has been a good initiative for our district,” said Owen County Superintendent Robert Stafford.
“The students that are juniors now, they really helped us pioneer this idea that we had and gave us feedback around the curriculum platforms that we’re using and things that worked and things that didn’t work. I think we’ve tried to listen to them and make adjustments that needed to be made and we’re continuing to do that,” Stafford said.
iLEAD Academy students work on a soldering project during an overnight field trip to the
Craft Academy at Morehead State University. (Photo courtesy of iLEAD Academy)
iLEAD Academy Director/teacher Larisa McKinney and iLEAD teachers Jessica Crenshaw and Jenna Gray wrote in a letter that iLEAD doesn’t spoon-feed student instruction “with cookie-cutter expectations” but instead “boasts a nontraditional atmosphere designed specifically with each individual student in mind.”
iLEAD’s flexible structure, the teachers wrote, “allows for rich workshop time, collaboration between students and teachers. This environment refines life skills such as time management and personal responsibility.”
Students take core academic courses online and progress at their own pace to college readiness in two years. iLEAD’s freshmen are able to take classes in the local area technology center to help determine a career pathway. The students receive career counseling beginning in ninth grade and are exposed to learning opportunities outside the school through trips during the school year.
“The structure and unique opportunities offered at iLEAD create a catalyst for deep discussions and brainstorming concerning life and career choices,” the iLEAD teachers wrote.
The goal of iLEAD is to graduate its students with a high school diploma and an associate degree from Jefferson Community and Technical College. Of the 33 juniors at iLEAD, 31 are enrolled as college students at JCTC.
Students visit several higher education campuses in the state where they can explore future college major options, including health care and engineering. iLEAD hired a student advocate to help students map out how to transfer the associate degree into a bachelor’s degree.
Owen County school board member Neese Chilton has a daughter who is a junior at iLEAD Academy.
“I am overwhelmed at the opportunities she has been provided,” Chilton wrote in a letter for the PEAK nomination. “iLEAD gives kids the opportunity to learn, on a daily basis, things beyond a normal high school experience. iLEAD is preparing the students to be leaders.”
“All these opportunities lead to students receiving academic achievements most will not receive until their senior year of high school or later,” Chilton wrote. “But these achievements would not be possible if iLEAD did not break the barriers of education with their improved classroom instruction.”
iLEAD Academy’s PEAK application notes the school is designed to empower students from rural communities with opportunities to:
• Access the best instructional programs aligned to their career interests and accelerated career pathways with seamless transitions from high school to postsecondary studies.
• Learn and progress at their own pace, master content and progress without regard to time in a seat or months in a school year in a fully competency-based educational program.
• Exert control over the place, time and pace of their education in a blended learning program.
• Jumpstart college studies to enter the workforce after high school at a higher wage and level of experience or complete a bachelor’s degree in two years after high school.
• Integrate technical courses into learning at all levels.
• Pursue a broad variety of foreign language studies utilizing digital learning platforms.
PEAK Award turns 20
KSBA began the PEAK Award in 1997 and has given out the PEAK Award 46 times over the past two decades. In the January issue of the Kentucky School Advocate, we will revisit a few of the past winning programs to update how they have evolved since winning the award.