Wayne County Learning Academy welcoming place for students and families
Students enrolled in the Wayne County Learning Academy took pride in their educational environment this past school year. In fact, it was not uncommon to see them painting everything from their classroom walls to a concrete retaining wall that created a more welcoming entrance.
The Learning Academy, located in the former Turner Intermediate School, is a place where the staff help an average of 18 7th through 12th graders overcome obstacles and develop transferable skills leading to academic success.
“We focus on developing the whole student,” said Head Teacher Jason Kennett. “Our academy is designed to provide an alternative education for many different types of students.”
The former high school social studies teacher seized the opportunity to lead the students. He and his students enhanced the multi-roomed center with everything from a Kentucky room complete with a log cabin theme to a garage storage room for the equipment they learn to use to a college/career classroom with branches of the military represented on the walls.
Not only is there a positive vibe going on inside the building, but Kennett has taken the program on the road with field trip adventures to places like: the judicial center, stockyards, detention center, museum, Burnside Power Plant, Fitzgerald’s in Byrdstown, TN, and Wolf Creek Dam fish hatchery.
We’ve picnicked almost everywhere we’ve been,” explained Kennett.
He was particularly proud to show the students the KCTCS campus so they knew that was within their reach after graduation.
Most days the students work on their online curriculum through Odysseyware software. Staff members Adam Chaplin and Barbara Simpson-Laws do an outstanding job working with the students daily. In addition, a variety of speakers shared messages woven into the academy schedule throughout the school year. They brought a variety of topics and information to the students. They especially appreciated local speakers like Shawn Crabtree from the Lake Cumberland Health Department, School Resource Officer Jerry Meadows, and National Guard Youth Challenge Representative Scottie Sloan.
One of this past year’s success stories was freshman Dylan Coomer’s decision to sign on with the National Guard Youth Challenge program for a 5 ½ month residential phase in Harlan County focusing on education and practical life skills, followed by a 12-month post-residential phase where Kennett will serve as his mentor. The core components of the ‘boot camp’ program include: academic excellence, citizenship, life coping skills, leadership/followership, job skills, health and hygiene, physical training, and service to community.
Another favorite speaker was New Charity Baptist Church Pastor Koger Ramsey. He captivated the students’ attention with stories about his career as an auctioneer, suffering from polio as a child, and having a hobby that brings him happiness.
“I’ve overcome physical barriers because I had enough grit to get up,” Ramsey told the boys in the class. “You take the bad with the good and stay with the good.”
He attributed his success to his mother’s ability to teach him to push himself. He recalled his childhood, being outside playing and falling down. He could not bend his knees because his leg braces were locked in place. “My mother would not come and get me up, so I would have to crawl on my elbows to the fence to pull myself up. She taught me if there was a will there was a way. At the time, people probably thought she was the worst mother ever, but she was the best.”
He lived near a livestock market growing up, so his dream was to become an auctioneer. “Being a preacher was not in my dream,” he said. “But God called me. But, I’m glad that happened because the church defines who I am.”
“None of my family said, ‘You are crippled,’ so I never knew it. My walking is as natural to me as yours is, so I did not have to overcome being handicapped. Your attitude affects your altitude,” enabling you to obtain the goals you want to reach.
He told the students that there is a possibility his polio is coming back. Believing in perseverance, he has made plans for an electric wheelchair if that becomes necessary. “You play the hand you’re dealt.”
Kennett applied what Ramsey was telling the students emphasizing a teachable moment, “If your A game is not working, do your B game. Every one of you have things in your way. It’s all about how you overcome obstacles….One of these days there may be someone in here that may be called to preaching.”
Not only did the students take away Ramsey's life lessons, but he had some fun with the students outdoors giving them fly-fishing lessons. “It’s a world of fun to fly fish,” said Ramsey.
“You’ll out fish your buddies with a Zebco,” added Kennett.
Ramsey told the students he got an instructional book on fly fishing years ago to learn how to roll cast on the water. He gave the students tips as he demonstrated how to cast and pull the line instead of reeling the fish in. “A good outfit will balance on your finger,” he advised.
The boys took turns learning the technique with Ramsey's help. It was not long before Kennett was so excited, he had promised to take the boys fly-fishing.
As the school year wound down, one of the final days was set aside for a family get-together at the academy, with plenty of food including grilled tenderloin and pinto beans. Four of the graduating seniors were honored, along with several character awards distributed. Parents were excited for their students who had gained so much from the academy.
“It’s been a great year and I’m proud of you guys,” as Kennett remarked that all the students together had earned 100 credits, possibly the most classes completed at the academy to date. “You guys hung in and did what it took…I’m going to miss you four.”
During the festive event, Kennett pointed out that Ms. Barbara had made the graduation cake. “She gives my ideas wings,” noted Kennett.
“This has been an awesome day,” grinned Kennett. “I’m like a big proud Papa. I love you.”
2018 Senior Celebration
The students and family enjoy a end of year meal at Learning Academy
Retired Social Studies teacher Calvin Kennett spoke to the Learning Academy students
(l-r): Head Teacher Jason Kennett with graduating Senior Brandon Smith
(l-r): Graduating Seniors Sam Acrey, Jimmy Hicks, Head Teacher Jason Kennett, Dylan Bell, Brandon Smith were presented with fly fishing rods
(l-r): Jimmy Hicks received a fly-fishing rod from Head Teacher Jason Kennett
(l-r): Dickie Wallace received an award from Head Teacher Jason Kennett
(l-r): Brandon Smith got an award from Head Teacher Jason Kennett
(l-r): Head Teacher Jason Kennett gave Senior Dylan Bell a certificate.
(l-r): Dakota Sullivan received a certificate from Head Teacher Jason Kennett
(l-r): Senior Sam Acrey received a certificate from Head Teacher Jason Kennett
(l-r): Head Teacher Jason Kennett presented Michael Phipps with an award
(l-r):Dylan Coomer received an award from Barbara Simpson
(l-r): Barbara Simpson gives Tyler Glass a certificate
The students and their families went through the buffet line.
The Learning Academy students listen to Calvin Kennett while he speaks.
(l-r): Matthew Braswell, Dylan Bell, Crystal Bell were amongst the families who enjoyed the event
Brother Koger Ramsey was a Special Guest Speaker at the End of the School Year
(l-r) Head Teacher Jason Kennett listened to Koger Ramsey speak about life lessons to the students
Brother Kroger Ramsey also shows students how to fly-fish
Dylan Coomer practices fly fishing with Koger Ramsey
Head Teacher Jason Kennet talks to the students
Students enjoyed learning about Koger Ramsey's hobby.