The Gatton Academy: the number one public high school in America

Published: Nov. 14, 2016 at 10:47 AM CST
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When you walk in the doors of Florence Schneider Hall, you see typical college students.

"It's given me a lot more independence. I get to choose when I want to go eat, and choose when I want to go do homework," said Veronica Johnson.

As Sara Saeed explains:

"If you're confused about a Chemistry concept at 2:00 in the morning you can knock on your neighbor's door for them to explain it to you."

When they're not studying:

"Staying up all night playing board games and going out on a 6:00 am Waffle House run," said Taylor Young.

What makes these students different than a normal college student is a lot of them thought about coming to Western Kentucky University when their peers were worried about going to middle school.

"Ever since I was in elementary school I heard about it when it opened and I knew I wanted to go," said Veronica.

Taylor agrees:

"When I first heard about it was 5th grade."

The students at Florence Schneider Hall are juniors and seniors in high school who are attending the number one public high school in the nation, the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science.

The students have a variety of reasons for wanting to attend the Gatton Academy as Camuel Hart explains:

"Our district sort of has a predisposition towards other fields, not necessarily any less important, but definitely not anything I was particularly interested in."

Taylor wanted to apply to go to Gatton for similar reasons:

"Not many people had the same interests so you feel a little left out."

Parker Graff agrees:

"Being home schooled I didn't have very many friends so coming here with people with similar interests and hobbies, it really allowed me to find people that connected with me."

At Gatton the students complete their junior and senior years of high school, while also starting their freshman and sophomore years at WKU.

"School is more challenging here, but the payoff, it's definitely worth it," said Sara.

"It's obviously a bit daunting at first, like how am I going to manage and all this," explains Parker.

"I do lose some sleep sometimes, but it's refreshing to have something that you have to try for," said Veronica.

Like any college student, they get to choose a lot of the classes that fit their interests as the students explained:

"Some knot theory work."


"Linear Algebra."


"Multivariable Calculus."

"Environmental Science."

"Statistics and Chemistry."

"I never had to use my brain as much as I have here, I just love it!" exclaimed Jaylon Hurt.

"We're all smart and we can be smart together and laugh at all the nerdy jokes and stuff," explained Parker.

They're also are learning what they don't want to be.

"I came to Gatton thinking I was going to be a doctor, since I was young I was always like I'm going to be a doctor, then I took two biology lectures here and I was like "No," said Sara.

While the students are learning life lessons at an early age, they're happy they've found a school they can also call home.

"We all just want each other to succeed and just to be friends," explained Veronica.

"It's nice to know that there are people like you and you don't always have to be known as the smart one," said Parker.

Gatton was created to help prevent the brain drain and keep more of the students interested in math and science in the state. Those with Gatton say from 2008-2014, 70% of their graduates did stay in the state.

It isn't all work, the students have dances, a prom, and can even stay involved with their home high school.

For more information on the Gatton Academy, click on the link to the right.