STEAM upperclassmen double up on BCTC campus
Starting this fall, upperclassmen at the STEAM Academy will be a step ahead through dual-credit courses at Bluegrass Community & Technical College. The new initiative enables qualifying high school juniors and seniors to spend their mornings in class on BCTC’s Cooper Drive campus in the shadow of UK’s football stadium and their afternoons nearby in internships with University of Kentucky professors and other local partners.
“Throughout high school, they hear ‘college’ all the time. Being on this campus makes it real for them. They get a first-hand experience of what it’s like to actually be in a college class,” said Christopher Flores, administrative dean at STEAM and staff leader at the BCTC site. “STEAM’s goal is to be the leader of Kentucky in that early college model.”
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), which emphasizes project-based learning and student inquiry, opened in August 2013 in the former Johnson Elementary building on East Sixth Street. It operates as a special program in Fayette County Public Schools and admits students from across the district via lottery to ensure a diverse population. Freshmen and sophomores follow a college-based schedule in which they complete full-year high school classes in one semester, and this accelerated pace prepares them for the dual-credit opportunities at BCTC as juniors and seniors.
In December 2017, the school board bought the property at 1555 Georgetown Road to house STEAM (renovations are pending) and proceeded to lease space from BCTC for the dual-credit partnership. The latter launched in August 2018 with nearly 90 teenagers – about 40 percent of whom are first-generation college students. They can earn up to 40 hours of college credit by the time they graduate high school.
“They have been through the process of beginning college such as attaining a parking pass, getting books from a campus bookstore, and working through new online systems for classes. They have student IDs and classes in different buildings at different times – all that, they are navigating on their own,” said Sara Tracy, community liaison for STEAM. “It is incredible and such an invaluable experience for them. It is something our district can really be proud to offer to students.”
Aside from the dual-credit courses, STEAM has a full-time English teacher and a part-time math teacher on site to cover high school requirements. On Fridays, when BCTC classes do not meet, the STEAM students rotate through a study skills group, math or calculus, and their research class after a plenary in the Oswald Building’s auditorium for pertinent announcements. Most of the students are taking two to four college classes this fall, and all of them have the research class in conjunction with their required internship.
Internship coordinator Geralyn Strange has lined up myriad partnerships at UK including The Hive (a graphics design lab with videography, web design, IT, etc.), the College of Dentistry, College of Fine Arts, College of Nursing simulation labs, the Early Childhood Lab (preschool), College of Design (including architecture), and College of Agriculture, Food & Environment. “Internships give students a very accurate view of what careers really entail,” Strange said. “It’s so good for them to have an accurate picture so they’re prepared for college.”
Sidebar: A view from the student section
To learn more
Families may call (859) 381-3033 or visit fcps.net/steam for more details about the STEAM Academy.
Eighth-graders and others interested in attending STEAM in 2019-20 may apply through Oct. 8: Online application