Morehead State University will open a residential high school science academy in August 2015 that will offer dual credit for academically exceptional students.
The academy will be modeled after the Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green and will concentrate on mathematics and science.
The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics was funded through a $2.3 million state budget appropriation and a $4 million gift from Alliance Resource Partners CEO Joe Craft.
Craft’s pledge is the single largest cash gift ever to Morehead State, President Wayne D. Andrews said.
Craft came to MSU Thursday with Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins to unveil plans for the academy.
The massive donation was his way of providing opportunities to students who will use them to make better lives, according to Craft. “It will help young people with abilities and give them the tools to develop those abilities,” he said.
The academy will open in 2015 to its first class of 60 juniors, and the following year will add 60 more juniors for a total enrollment of 120.
The students will live on campus and attend college classes with college students. The classes will be taught by Morehead State faculty.
The university will renovate one of its residential halls that will be designed for high-school students. The renovated dorm will have meeting and social spaces and around-the-clock security.
Stivers said he pitched the idea to Andrews about a year and a half ago after his daughter attended the Gatton Academy. “I’d asked myself, ‘Why do we have this only in western Kentucky?’” Stivers said.
He brought Adkins in on the planning and Adkins “sealed the deal with Joe,” Stivers said. Both legislators shepherded the funding proposal through the budget process in Frankfort.
“This is something that is going to be a game-changer ... I have no doubt it can be as successful as the Gatton Academy,” he said. “It will be a systemic change in eastern Kentucky and make a huge difference for our youth and how we are perceived, not only in the state, but nationally and internationally.”
The academy will be open to students from across the state, but chances are a significant proportion of enrollees will come from eastern Kentucky, Andrews said. A preponderance of Gatton students are from the western part of the state and the new school’s location in Morehead will make it a good choice for students from the region because of its proximity to their homes, he said.
State funding for the academy puts the money in the base of Morehead State’s budget, which means the money for operating the school is included in the university’s spending plan each year, Adkins said.
Adkins sees the academy as a source of skilled workers to invigorate the state’s economy. “It lays a strong foundation to make sure we always have a strong pool of highly educated and trained workers,” he said.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.