Growing Greatness - Part One

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A unique opportunity for gifted students is about to take Kentucky by storm.

The Kentucky Academy for Math and Science is set to open in the fall of 2007 on the campus of Western Kentucky University. This time next year, 120 of the state's brightest high school juniors and seniors will be taking their curriculum, and Kentucky, to the next level.

Renovations are underway at Florence Schneider Hall, one of Western's oldest buildings. The hall recently got a new lease on life from the State Legislature.

The 2005 budget provided $3.75 million plus $5 million in bonding to retrofit Schneider to house the Academy.

"Jody Richards was very interested in the Academy. He had been with the Southern Regional Development Board and he knew what was happening," said Dr. Julia Roberts, director of Western's Center for Gifted Studies.

"Dr. Roberts has been the driving force behind the Math Academy since first writing the proposal, nine years ago," said Dale Brown, Warren County superintendent.

"I really think of all the people I know in gifted education, she is right on target with her plans and ideas on that," Roberts said as plans for a Math and Science Academy evolved. Decision makers were quick to realize this type of education would translate into a stronger economy.

"It's future…it's developing future leaders in science technology and math," Roberts explained.

For Kentucky, there's no where to go but up.

The Commonwealth currently ranks 47th in the number of math and scientists in the state. Proof that the Academy could change Kentucky's rankings can be found in North Carolina.

In 1980 North Carolina became the first state to have a residential school focused on math and science. Over the next 10 years, the number of scientists and engineers increased by 125 percent.

Duplicating that success is a tall order, but a challenge the Academy's recently hired director said he's up to.

"We want to be a hub for so much of technology and the thinking on engineering science…why not here…it's the perfect place to do it," said Tim Gott, Academy director.

And there's no time like the present. Gott is quickly adapting to his role as director. Building work is moving full steam ahead and recruitment efforts have begun in ernst around the state. Now the sky's the limit in building a premiere program.

"We have the opportunity and resources to do something nationally and internationally known. I think it has all those components right now," Gott said.

Applications are already being accepted for the opening of the Academy next fall.

Students selected will have tuition, room and board paid for.

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