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School part of pilot project to push readiness for students

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CLOSE the DEAL at BULLITT CENTRAL

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Bullitt Central principal Christy Coulter proudly gazed over the members of the Class of 2013.

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“This is a talented group,” Coulter proclaimed for everyone to hear.

But on this special morning, the goal was to make sure those talented students understood that to succeed in life, they would need some higher learning.

Bullitt Central was one of only three high schools in Kentucky to be selected for a pilot program to push the importance of post-secondary education. It is an initiative being led by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.

The ultimate goal is to expand the Close the Deal program to all three high schools in Bullitt County.

Abramson learned the importance of making college a priority when he was serving as mayor in Louisville.

While attending a festival in southwestern Jefferson County, Abramson said a principal at Valley High School expressed his frustration in seeing all the talented students transferring to other schools.

During the discussion, the issue discovered was that students don’t often aspire to greatness. Through a concerted effort and a game plan, the business community got involved and Valley High School would see the percentage of graduates attending college double.

While at St. Catherine College in Springfield, two of the participants in the Valley Close the Deal program thanked Abramson for the program. They never expected to be attending college but they were.

“That is what this is all about,” Abramson said of the joy expressed by the students.

Seeing how the partnership between the business community and the schools could work, Abramson took his idea of Close the Deal to the state education commissioner. The rest is history.

With little funding required, Abramson said three schools were selected based on certain criteria. One was that there must be a Chamber of Commerce organization willing to get the business community involved.

Another goal is to bring the community colleges, the businesses and the school system together. In Bullitt County, he said that is already being done.

“It pumps me up,” Abramson said of the energy felt into the Bullitt Central gym. “This program will help make kids aspire to greatness.”

With the senior class sitting at tables, each would have the opportunity on this particular morning to talk with an admissions counselor at a college or university in the state; with a financial aid counselor; and with a business professional to discuss options in their careers.

The idea was to have them spend time with each area to ask questions and to gain input.

If any of the students wondered why the lieutenant governor was so impassioned about the program, he gave them plenty to think about.

“You have got to aspire to more than a high school education,” said Abramson.

There must be more than 60 percent of the students going on to post-secondary education. Abramson said those alternatives could include community colleges, technical schools or even the military.

Some degrees will only take two years but he said that is at least gaining more education. Excellent learning can be obtained at two- or four-year institutions.

“They want you to be successful,” said Abramson. “It’s up to you.”

In today’s technical world, Abramson said students can make the decision - go to college and look toward a brighter future or stay in the fast food business.

“You’ve got to go out and make it happen,” said Abramson.

With an education, Abramson said you could be prepared to make decisions when opportunities arise. And with an education, more opportunities will arise.

“We want to give you a chance to make your own decisions,” said Abramson.

In the business world, he said employers are looking for skilled, educated workers who are productive and drug free.

Following his discussion, Abramson said that he can leave and Coulter would be in charge of following through with the program and the enthusiasm.

With so many financial aid opportunities, he said there is no reason any student cannot go to college.

Coulter said the information session was a pep rally to get the seniors thinking about their future.

She said every student should leave Bullitt Central with a life plan. It is the job of the school to help students get to that point. 

For superintendent Keith Davis, it was an exciting day. 

“This is exciting to have one of our schools selected,” said Davis. “I think it is a sign that others in the state are seeing that we are making progress and we are push our students to look toward life after high school.”

With the college and career ready push by the state, Davis said it is important that students understand what happens when they graduate.

“It is important that they start to think about their adult life,” said Davis. 

He was impressed that about two-thirds of the students said they were college and career ready.

“That number has got to increase, though,” said Davis.

The school board will be asked to provide funding for some additional staff members over the coming months. To get students ready, Davis is hoping to have a career pathway teacher at each of the high schools. He would also like to hire three graduation coaches.

The funds would come from money generated through a recent tax increase.

A part of the partnership in the Close the Deal program is government.

State Rep. Linda Belcher said she spent over 35 years in education. And, with her continued work in education as part of the legislature, Belcher said today’s students must be prepared to attend college.

She said employers are looking for enthusiastic applicants who are able to think on the job.

Belcher said students should be able to market themselves.

They should find a career that they love and then pursue it to the fullest.

Finally, she said students should find a college that fits them. Setting goals is important. Belcher would like to see everyone spend at least one year away at college.

Susan Allred, associate commissioner of education in Frankfort, said that students today face many challenges.

But she said they are also the ones who can solve problems such as health issues.

In keeping with the theme, she encouraged students to close the deal and prepare themselves for a bright future.

Another part of the program is the business community.

Lou Ann Moore, president of the Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce and a graduate of Bullitt Central, said she was proud that the school was selected for participation in the program.

Part of the county’s strategic plan is to continue the educational strides that have been made. Ultimately, she said, the goal is for those young adults to come back home to live and work.

“We want you to come home to work,” said Moore. “We want you to be prepared to work and raise your family in Bullitt County.”

Students from all three high schools also had the opportunity to attend a career and college festival at Paroquet Springs Conference Centre. Representatives from colleges and local businesses were on hand to provide information to the students.