Legacy Equine Academy opens doors for Hayes group
Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017
The Legacy Equine Academy, a pilot program this year at Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, is designed for students like Maya Robinson. “I’ve always had a passion for animals,” she said during a tour of Locust Trace AgriScience Center, noting, “It’s always good to learn new things and have new opportunities.”
Maya and some two dozen African-American and racially diverse classmates spent a day at Locust Trace during their fourth session of the academy, a nonprofit initiative founded by local businessman Ron Mack. So far, the program has highlighted significant historical figures such as jockey Isaac Murphy and enabled the Hayes group to network with students at Locust Trace and professionals in the industry.
“African Americans were instrumental in horseracing in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and we want to build that bridge from heritage to future opportunities,” Mack explained.
Nearly 30 Hayes students participate in the academy, which pulls them out of class two days a month for guest speakers and field trips. For instance, ambassadors from Locust Trace visited Hayes for the kickoff meeting and then hosted the group at the farm, complete with hands-on experience grooming horses in the main barn. The seventh- and eighth-graders also heard from equine nutritionist Amy Parker of the Alltech company McCauley’s, who used a gasoline can and series of pipes to illustrate a horse’s digestive system. Parker, who graduated from Bryan Station High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s in equine nutrition – both from the University of Kentucky.
“We’re trying to show them different aspects so they don’t limit themselves to the typical careers they think are out there,” said Carla Jackson, the Youth Services Center coordinator at Hayes. “The students are eager and excited about the program.”
The Legacy Equine Academy is a focused attempt to draw more diverse students toward the equine/agriculture industry – one of Kentucky’s biggest fields. UK’s Agriculture Department is also on board, working to set up special scholarships. Meanwhile, the partnership with Locust Trace is crucial in providing the curriculum piece and interactive learning for the Hayes students, who can continue the program next year at the new Frederick Douglass High School.
“They’re going to learn the basics with us,” said Anne DeMott, principal at Locust Trace. “We’re hoping to create an intentional pipeline to identify students who might have an interest in the equine industry and channel them to our program. It’s kind of like a workforce-ready program.”
Lauren Walker of Henry Clay High School, an all-day student at Locust Trace as a senior, would also encourage the Hayes students to pursue internships or summer jobs. “You’ve got to start entry-level and work your way up,” Lauren said. “I hope they realize they can take it and run with it.”