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Carter G. Woodson Prep embraces first group of scholars

As Jocelyn Mills helped youngsters find their classrooms on the first day of school, she was mindful of the steady foundation established at Carter G. Woodson Preparatory Academy. “There’s been a lot of investment making sure the students have a strong sense of belonging. They will feel a tribe of people who support them and feel responsible for their success,” said Mills, program director of the newest magnet opportunity in Fayette County Public Schools.

Her staff and teachers fanned out Aug. 11 in the revamped Johnson Elementary on East Sixth Street to welcome their students, whom they call scholars, in grades K-2. The program will grow over time and eventually operate through fifth grade. The STEM-focused curriculum (science, technology, engineering, and math) will be taught through the lens of African-American history, culture, and culturally responsive teaching and learning strategies.

“The STEM aspect is really what drew me to this program. He’s already bright, and it will challenge him,” Dexter Lander said of his 5-year-old son, who is starting kindergarten. “It’s a great opportunity for all these young men to learn and broaden their horizons,” he added. Shakiyla Edwards, whose older son just turned 6, agreed. “I feel like this will help them be better young men in the future,” she said.

Jocelyn MillsThey and other families had gathered a few days earlier for the program’s white lab coat ceremony, which celebrates the students and their potential. They lined up outside and came into the gym in small groups because of COVID-19 social-distancing considerations. After repeating the student creed and parent pledge, everyone filed through the library for family photos. Mills plans to assemble individual shots of the youngsters into a class montage.

The renovated building already spotlights the program’s namesake and aspirational words such as “radical,” “ready,” and “brave” from Woodson quotes. Myriad opportunities line the hallways -- reformer, optimist, hero, designer, builder, originator, architect, and more. “We have to do it together,” Mills said. “It’ll take a community coming together to make sure we produce trailblazers, advocates, and leaders.”

“We have a very particular mission,” Mills noted. “We want our scholars to have a sense of empowerment, and most important, we want them to be strong leaders -- strong advocates for their community and their families. We want them to be well read and ready for the challenges of college and career. We want them to be the best representations of their people and the Lexington community. Schools should be transformative. Your children will be game-changers once they have had these experiences.”

Did you know? Carter G. Woodson Academy, which is for grades 6-12, opened in 2012. Rosz Akins, the dean of scholars there, said together with the new prep academy, the aim is to close achievement gaps. “By starting these young men at an earlier age, we’ll have a greater opportunity to not even have a gap. That’s ultimately the goal,” she said.

(Posted Aug. 11, 2021)


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