On Saturday, May 13, fifty-nine students representing forty counties from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky were recognized during The Gatton Academy’s tenth graduation ceremony in Van Meter Hall.
Gatton Academy Executive Director and Mahurin Professor of Gifted Education Dr. Julia Roberts expressed that the graduation ceremony was a celebration for the entire Commonwealth.
“Today is a day of celebration for Gatton Academy graduates and their families,” Roberts said. “These young people are well prepared for the next steps in their preparation for leadership in STEM careers. We congratulate our 2017 Gatton Academy graduates.”
Gatton Academy Director Dr. Lynette Breedlove shared her praise for the graduating seniors and her gratitude for the WKU faculty and staff members in making The Gatton Academy both a rewarding and challenging educational experience for Kentucky.
“This exceptional group of students has made the most of the opportunities our school offers. These graduates have taken academic risks and persevered in our intensely rigorous curriculum. Thanks to the dedication and support of WKU faculty and staff, our graduates are well prepared for the infinite possibilities ahead of them.”
Sixteen members of the class were selected as National Merit finalists, two seniors earned National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarships, and four students were recognized as semifinalists in the Siemens competition. 92 percent of the class participated in faculty-sponsored research during their time at the Academy, and nine graduates completed the school’s STEM + Critical Languages curriculum in either Arabic or Chinese. 88 percent of the senior class studied abroad while at The Gatton Academy. 66.1 percent of the graduating class completed 60 or more hours of service during their two years at The Gatton Academy. As a class, they completed 3698.75 service hours.
When trying to find a way to summarize the Gatton experience, LaGrange senior Logan Parker could only think of questions, not answers.
“Why did you decide to go to Gatton? I could give all the reasons listed on the Academy’s homepage: college credit, STEM classes, research, study abroad. These are many of the reasons I decided to attend Gatton,” stated Parker. “Maybe a better question is “why did you decide to stay?” Those benefits mentioned previously are very much a part of the experience, but the people sitting in front of the stage (referencing the graduating class) are the basis for staying here. Both our differences and our similarities are what truly make Gatton remarkable.”
Dr. Julia Carter delivered the commencement address. Dr. Carter is the President of the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory in Newport, Kentucky. Her words of advice centered on dreams.
“As your commencement speaker, I would like to congratulate you on your academic achievements,” stated Dr. Carter. “You need to always be a dreamer, pursue your dreams with persistence, and never lose sight of your dreams. Remember you are Kentucky’s Dream Team! The future of the Commonwealth is in your hands, and we are expecting great things from you.”
Haley Dicken, a graduating senior from Jamestown, reflected on how much can occur in just two short years.
“Two years can change a lot. From birth to 2 years, we changed incredibly. Your first two years of life are so important. You learn to walk, how to talk, and how to see the world differently than we ever did before,” stated Dicken. “I cannot wait to see what the next two years hold for us, and the two after that, and the two after that. Maybe, just maybe, we will use our new walk, our new talk, and our new vision gifted to us by The Gatton Academy to experience life for all it’s worth!”
In the fall of 2017, students from the graduating class will attend 22 colleges and universities across the United States: Centre College, Chapman University, University of Cincinnati, Duke University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Macalester College, Northeastern University, University of Notre Dame, Purdue University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, United States Air Force Academy, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The University of Tennessee Knoxville, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, Washington University in St. Louis, and Western Kentucky University.
Members of The Gatton Academy’s Class of 2017
* Gatton Community Scholar
These graduates are recognized for completing two semesters of research with a research outcome that is presented to a professional audience after being accepted through a vetted process OR four semesters of participation in STEM+Critical Languages, AND documenting 60 hours of service.