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OMC provides students a bridge to college

For senior Jordan Speakman, shifting from Lafayette to Opportunity Middle College last year was a well-calculated move. “Getting me ready for college is the biggest part,” he said of the OMC advantages. “I knew this would be a hard challenge, but I wanted to get as much college credit as I possibly could.”

OMC, one of the specialized programs offered in Fayette County Public Schools, enables juniors and seniors to complete their high school coursework while taking dual-credit classes at Bluegrass Community & Technical College. Jordan, for instance, is interested in a career in emergency medicine, so he signed up for med school prerequisites like anatomy and physiology. Meanwhile, OMC students can remain involved in extra-curricular activities such as band and sports at their home high school. “If you put in the effort, you can still stay connected,” said Karen Edwards, guidance counselor and OMC administrator.

For most teens, if they maintain a B average, OMC adds a college class each semester – progressing from two classes in the fall of their junior year (such as English 101 and History 108) to five classes in the spring as seniors. That gives them a total 42 credit hours. Students who qualify for free/reduced meals attend for free, with tuition and books covered by FCPS. Others pay only a third of the BCTC cost – about $210 to $240 per class, according to Edwards.

In addition, FCPS students can learn the ins and outs of a higher education system as they mix in classes with BCTC students and sometimes absorb hard lessons from by-the-book professors. “You need to get your work done and can’t slack behind,” Jordan noted. “Before, I was very conscientious, and this has showed me the (continued) importance of time management.” OMC staff helps with the transition. “We push them to know they are in charge of their learning now. We will gently prod, but we don’t chase them around,” said math teacher Charma Linville.

With a capped enrollment of 100, OMC has three full-time staff, two part-time teachers, and an administrative assistant. “Our classes being smaller, the kids speak up and aren’t embarrassed. Their learning is deeper because they’re not waiting a week to work up the courage,” said Linville, who teaches math, algebra, geometry – whatever the students need. She believes the teenagers also benefit from interacting with a diverse BCTC community, and that they really step up and begin to practice self-advocacy. “They get to know themselves and figure out how they learn best,” she added.

The program, which launched in 2009, was first housed on BCTC’s Leestown campus and then the Cooper campus next to UK’s Commonwealth Stadium. In summer 2021, OMC moved to the newest facilities at 500 Newtown Pike. “BCTC is really putting its heart, soul, and money into this campus. They’ve just completed the third building, which will house the bookstore, café, and admissions people,” Edwards said.

OMC, which now occupies three classrooms in the basement of the main building, provides an effectively bridge for a target group. “OMC was created for first-generation, low socio-economic minority students,” Edwards explained. “We want that kid who doesn’t have anybody in the family to ask or doesn’t know how to navigate (the system) or how to pay for college. We’re the conduit to give kids that information.”

To get the word out to prospective students, the OMC staff networks through guidance counselors and Youth Services Center coordinators at the district’s six high schools. With FCPS in remote learning for much of last year, contacts were limited and the 2021-22 numbers are down. That has prompted OMC to reopen its application window in hopes of adding a couple dozen more students in the spring semester.

Contact: OMC administrator Karen Edwards, (859) 246-6474

(Posted Sept. 21, 2021)

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