A teenager with a perfect ACT score made a point Monday about the significance of attending the No. 1 high school in America.
“Kentucky is the best in the United States of America in something other than basketball,” said David Brown, 17, of Central City, a student at the Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University.
Gov. Steve Beshear joined the celebration of Gatton Academy being named the No. 1 American high school by Newsweek magazine.
“This is the future of Kentucky. This is the future of our country. And, we can’t celebrate enough,” Beshear said.
The governor said he got a tour of the renovated former residence hall at WKU, and students showed him poster boards of projects that are under way.
“I thought I was at NASA,” he said. “I was blown away.”
Beshear said the Gatton Academy model shows that rather than lowering educational standards for young people, the work should be more difficult.
The “learning ceiling” will disappear, “and they soar,” he said of those challenged students.
Beshear said he brought congratulations to Gatton Academy on behalf of the 4.3 million residents of the commonwealth.
“Thank you so much for all the hard work you’ve done,” he said.
Beshear said the next goal is make sure that once Kentucky young people are accepted and attend Gatton Academy, they then attend higher education institutions in Kentucky and stay to live and work in Kentucky. “We need great, young minds,” he said.
He also thanked Bill Gatton, whose generosity helped to make Gatton Academy a reality. “Thanks to the fellow who put the bucks up. He’s invested in Kentucky,” Beshear said.
Beshear received his own copy of the Newsweek magazine that spotlighted the school.
The academy serves 125 students each year, and they have come from 107 of Kentucky’s 120 counties during its five years of existence.
Meredith Doughty, 17, of Bowling Green, is a Greenwood High School student who is getting ready to graduate from Gatton Academy in May.
Looking to study neonatal care, she said the academy’s “rigorous” workload is preparing her for the challenges of medical school once she receives an undergraduate degree.
“It’s really focused. You have to stay focused,” she said.
Leah Cannady, 16, of Brandenburg in Meade County, is also a senior at Gatton. She said the close relationships she is building at the school is what she’ll take away at graduation next year. She wants to study biomedical engineering.
“It’s a godsend,” said Bruce Wilson, 56, whose son, Les, 17, is also in the Gatton senior class. The Wilsons are from Munfordville in Hart County. “It’s the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to him,” the father said. Les Wilson is looking to eventually get an engineering degree.
Brown, the last speaker of the afternoon, is from Muhlenberg County and has received a Gatton Research Grant. He found out Monday that he had received a perfect score on the ACT. “That made for a good day,” he said.
As he thought about what his remarks might be, Brown said, he puzzled over just what message to bring. Then he thought back to a recent Monday night at the school. There were 15 or 20 students sprawled out on couches and surrounded by paperwork and electronic devices.
“Every professor at Western decided to have their test on the same day,” he recalled, noting the stress level among the students was evident.
And yet, he also saw the collective spirit of Gatton Academy. “Everybody was helping someone else.”
He said Gatton Academy students embrace the workloads and also one another. “We are here to learn and grow. We are No. 1 because no one here is concerned with being No. 1.”