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American Graduate Champions commit their time, skills, and resources to make sure that young people succeed. They play an active role in improving educational outcomes for students of all ages – from the child just starting preschool to the adult who is working on a high school equivalency. A champion is a parent who is active in the lives of young people or a volunteer who creates a positive environment for youth in their community or an educator who goes above and beyond. KET honors Kentucky’s American Graduate Champions. Sign up to be a Champion or nominate someone you know.

Featured Champions

 
  • Owens Saylor

    Owens Saylor

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    KET honors Owens Saylor, superintendent of Daviess County Schools, “for his vital community service, commitment to education and support of students and their families.” Amy Grant, KET west region education consultant, presented the American Graduate Champion award to Supt. Saylor during a meeting of the DCPS Board of Education on May 19, 2016.

    Saylor, who was named Superintendent of the Daviess County Public Schools district in 2012, was nominated for the success of his "Great Expectations" initiative. According to his nomination, this initiative set the stage in 2013 for the assignment of College/Career Coaches at high schools to advise and support students as they work to meet CCR goals. “Great Expectations” has worked seamlessly with the Advance Kentucky program, providing extensive supports in encouraging students to take AP-level courses. Participation in Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses has increased dramatically. In 2010, 128 students took 152 AP Exams. In 2014, that number rocketed to 520 students taking 805 AP Exams. “These are more than just numbers. These are students for whom the trajectory of their lives has been forever changed because of a realization that someone has ‘Great Expectations’ for their success.”

    DCPS has now earned its third consecutive designation as a Distinguished district with 10 of 17 schools honored as Distinguished – the highest level of recognition – and three rewarded as Schools of Distinction, placing them among the top 5 percent of all public schools in Kentucky. Apollo and Daviess County High Schools have made significant, sustained improvements over the past four years. Starting from the 37th state testing percentile in 2012, AHS has leaped to the 90th percentile in 2015. DCHS has progressed from the 52nd percentile in 2012 to the 91st in 2015. Both schools have moved from “needs improvement” to “distinguished” status. ACT results for the graduating class of 2015 represent the highest composite scores since the system to assess every graduating senior was implemented in 2004. Extensive supports help high school students meet ACT and College-Career Readiness benchmarks. District personnel are especially excited about results from the alternative high school. In 2013, only one alternative high school student met state CCR benchmarks. “In 2014, that number increased to an incredible 18 students!”

  • Lisa Thompson

    Lisa Thompson

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    Lisa Thompson, chief strategy officer of New Directions Housing Corp., talks about the nonprofit's history and its services to the community. There are currently about 1,000 properties under New Directions' management. New Directions also offers a myriad of social services, including four learning centers situated in neighborhoods where their housing is located. Thompson and Vernon Gibson, a mentor at one of the learning centers, talks about the organization's role in helping to further educate children after they finish their school day. Several children at the centers are also interviewed.

  • Henry Heuser

    Henry Heuser

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    Louisville business executive Henry Heuser talks about his city's "55K Program," which aims to help create 55,000 additional college graduates to fit workforce needs by 2020. He also discusses his involvement in scholarship programs for students in Jefferson County. Scholarship recipients also talk about their educational development.

  • Rick King

    Rick King

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    American Graduate Champion Rick King is a district manager for Eaton Corporation, a diversified power management company, and a mentor to young people in Louisville, Ky. through the Rotary Promise Scholarship Mentoring Program, the ACE (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) Mentoring Program, and LEEP (Louisville Education and Employment Partnership).

  • Howard Holloman

    Howard Holloman

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    A national team leader for GE Appliances for almost 40 years, American Graduate Champion Howard Holloman believes the first step in helping others is putting yourself out there, getting involved. Through Louisville, Ky.'s Black Achievers program, Holloman is a role model to young people, helping them with their career aspirations and personal growth.

  • Annie Haigler

    Annie Haigler

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    “It's not always a lack of money. Sometimes, poverty is just a lack of knowledge.” As coordinator of the Family Resource Center at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School in Louisville, American Graduate Champion Annie Haigler provides an array of support services to students, family, and staff to make learning possible and successful.

  • Kathryn Hardman

    Kathryn Hardman

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    Kathryn Hardman is the executive director of Laurel County Adult Education and Literacy and was nominated as an American Graduate Champion for her generous support of adult learners. She says, “I partner with every student to outline a plan for success. I believe every student has the ability and the right to achieve. It is my (our) responsibility to continually point out the path that will get them there and to provide the tools they need to use for it to happen.”

  • Jackie Robertson

    Jackie Robertson

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    Jackie has been helping people work towards their GED® diplomas and college and career success for over 15 years. She was first a family literacy instructor at an outreach program and then director/instructor at Hancock County Adult Education. She says, "As much as I have taught, I have learned far more. I treasure the relationships formed with students during the past years and continuing to form today. I love running into students and having them tell me how great their lives are now. Nothing is more satisfying to me than knowing I played a small part in the success of a student."

  • Sam Corbett

    Sam Corbett

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    Sam Corbett is a problem solver. When he was an executive in the formalwear business, Corbett had to find creative solutions for a business that revolved around immovable deadlines like wedding dates and proms.

    When he decided to leave his family business, Sam Meyers Formalwear, Corbett followed a yen that had been building in him for years: to continue his involvement in education. He’d served on the Jefferson County Public Schools board, on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and with the University of Louisville.

    In 2004 the Jefferson County Public School system and Greater Louisville, Inc. put together a program called "Every 1 Reads." Its purpose was to work with students who were not at grade level in reading with a goal of enabling every child in Louisville schools read on par with their peers. A member of the original committee that created the program, Corbett was asked to recruit volunteer tutors who would go to schools once weekly to read with students for 30 minutes. "Obviously, I thought if I’m going to try to recruit volunteers I needed to be involved myself," he recalls.

    Corbett began working with 2nd grader Regina Jerman and continued working with Regina through high school.

    Today, Regina Jerman is a student at the University of Kentucky and Corbett is executive director of the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that connects public schools and the businesses and individuals who want to help them.

  • Julia Youngblood

    Julia Youngblood

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    For the past 10 years Julia Youngblood has been the Director of The Kentucky Center's ArtsReach Program. In its 25th year, ArtsReach empowers community centers to program the arts, nurtures and develops diverse artists and audiences, engages youth, and creates community through the arts. ArtsReach is a vital program which implements arts programming, during out-of-school time, where youth live and play. The program collaborates with community centers throughout Louisville to empower youth through studio arts instruction, special projects with community artists and residencies with national artists. ArtsReach provides affordable tickets to performances and the opportunity for youth to perform on The Kentucky Center's professional stages during the ArtsReach Annual Performing Arts Showcase, Keepers of the Dream, monthly Open Mic and other special events. ArtsReach students learn new skills, expand their horizons and develop a sense of self, well-being and belonging. As the individual is empowered, the arts simultaneously build and strengthen the community.

  • Julia Youngblood

    Allison Modaff

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    Allison Modaff, who has worked in adult education for nearly 10 years, was nominated as an American Graduate Champion because of her outstanding ability with students from various backgrounds, with a wide range of education experiences, and of all ages. She says her goal "is to help all students realize that even if they didn't complete high school, they are never too old to learn and to reach their educational goals - whether that is to read or earn a GED and go on to college. I feel so blessed to work in a field that provides students of all ages an alternative to the typical high school setting." Allison is featured in KET instructional videos that have been incorporated into lessons in Fast Forward, KET's online high school equivalency preparation program, and included in a collection of adult education resources in PBS LearningMedia.

  • Ed White

    Ed White

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    The act of making music can build bridges among people of diverse backgrounds. Ed "Nardie" White knew that when in 1993 he founded Louisville’s River City Drum Corp, a group of children and young adults between the ages of 2 and 18 who have been trained in African drumming techniques and materials as well as the richness of African culture.

    Designed for children ages two through eighteen, the Drum Corp is far more than just a musical group; it is an organization that provides its members with a blueprint for success in life. Each young drummer makes his or her own drum, using materials found in the environment. They learn through apprenticeships-not just about African drumming, but also about the skills needed for personal, academic, and social success. They are responsible for the Drum Corp’s business accounting and scheduling. After every performance or group outing, each member writes a personal narrative about his/her experience regarding that particular event.

    White is the 2015 recipient of Louisville Metro’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award. “Many people talk about what needs to be done, but Ed is a person of action and he has done outstanding and pioneering work developing young folks into productive citizens through the River City Drum Corps and other community programs to engage and inspire youth,” Mayor Fischer said.

    The Drum Corp’s overall success is grounded in a commitment among the participants, their families, and program volunteers to function as one unit–a true extended family.

  • Edgardo Mansillo

    Edgardo Mansillo

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    A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Edgardo came to Louisville in 1990 on a scholarship to study social work. Today, he is Executive Director of Louisville’s Americana Community Center, a non-profit organization providing a spectrum of services for the many diverse residents of Louisville Metro. Edgardo holds a master of social work from the Carver School of Social Work and a master of theology. He is also a part-time professor at the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work. He has extensive experience providing programs in Louisville to benefit refugee, immigrant, and low-income families.

  • Marika Pence

    Markia Pence

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    Markia Pence is a born and raised Louisvillian from the eastern part of town, a very bright and courageous individual who has endured many ups and downs throughout life. At age 17, Pence agraduated from Liberty High School, a whole year earlier than his peers. "Coming from a big family and growing up experiencing a lot of adversity, I felt the need to always raise the bar above all of the standards that were set before me." Liberty High School is a nontraditional public school for students 16 years old or older that mainly serves underperforming students and stresses an interactive learning environment.

    Having experienced it himself, Pence became an outspoken advocate on behalf of homeless youth. In 2011, he received the Mayor’s JCPS Outstanding Senior award. Now Pence is an aspiring barber with an eye on owning a business and becoming a philanthropist in the community.

    Pence attended a year at Kentucky State University and now has a scholarship at ITT Tech. He volunteers at YMCA Safe Space and loves to work with kids.

  • Damon Cobble

    Damon Cobble

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    Damon Cobble uses his personal journey to help motivate and inspire the young people he counsels in his role as a licensed mental health counselor at Seneca High School in Louisville.

    Cobble experienced life 'in the trenches' at a young age. As an underprivileged youth himself, he grew up in a single-parent household, with limited income and resources in a rough part of town. These are some of the factors which molded his character, resolve, outlook and determination, leading to his commitment to become a positive role model in his community.

    Along the way, Cobble has served as a Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff, earned a BA in Psychology and a Master’s of Science in Counseling.

    He has dedicated much of his life to the well-being of his community through volunteerism, application of therapeutic skills, and collaboration with public school systems and law enforcement, and he continually seeks to better the community through individual personal efforts.

    "It’s truly a blessing and an opportunity to talk to someone as wonderful as Mr. Cobble," says DJ, a senior at Seneca HS. "When it comes down to speaking with people, not too many people are going to get as deep as Mr. Cobble."

  • Chenoweth Allen

    Chenoweth Stites Allen

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    Chenoweth Allen is an Art Therapist who truly believes in the goodness of people and the ability of art to encourage, motivate, and heal. She has provided art-based therapeutic services to youth in many different environments. In doing so she has enabled many children to continue their education while going through rough times.

    At Family Scholar House she provides art therapy to single parents who are working to obtain a college education. At the West End School she offers weekly art therapy sessions for middle school and elementary boys who have been labelled as at-risk. At Kosair Children's Hospital’s inpatient psychiatric unit she has lead weekly art therapy groups for ages 3-18.

    Allen is a founding member of the West Louisville Women’s Coalition (WLWC) which aims to create and sustain artistic and peaceful spaces in parts of Louisville where educational attainment is lowest.
    "My job is to help people best express themselves through using art," said Allen, whose caring demeanor and open smile invite her students’ trust.

  • Tytianna Wells

    Tytianna Wells Smith

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    Community activist Tytianna N. M. Wells Smith recently was awarded the Kentucky Foundation for Women 2014 Arts and Activism Award for her creative writing and character-based program, "The Healing Tree House Traveling Residency" for girls and young women ages 12-18 who are survivors of abuse, neglect and violence in Kentucky. She also travels to schools with her Multicultural Literacy Program as an author and illustrator of the 4-volume children’s book series "Sweet Pea and Sugar Tea’s Country Family Adventures: A Collection of African-American Poems." This character-based series includes interactive lessons and activities.

  • David Ream

    David Ream

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    David Ream works in the Boone County Schools. He says, “"I work as an intervention specialist serving kids who are scoring far below average on the various standard measures. Additionally I teach guitar so from first-hand experience I see the importance of reaching kids through variety of means to help them succeed.”

  • Anthony Smith

    Anthony Smith

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    Anthony Smith's bio on the Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods/Louisville Government website clearly shows why he's an American Graduate Champion:

    Anthony Smith knew when he walked across the college graduation stage that he wanted to devote his life to ensure everyone in the community had the best opportunity to succeed. Anthony has spent his lifetime building skills suited for a Director for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. He knows Louisville, its struggles and possibilities, and has credibility in board rooms and in the community. Under Anthony's leadership, the One Love Louisville: Be the One to Make a Difference campaign was developed. It is an all hands on deck action plan, calling on every one of us to take an active role to make Louisville a city of safe neighborhoods, where all citizens feel secure, supported and prepared for lifelong success.

    “We have an opportunity to positively impact peoples’ lives in our community. I believe change is possible. If you give young people a chance, they will succeed. The purpose of our work is to make sure everyone is connected and supported. That's when we see success.”

    Anthony Smith was recently named CEO of Cities United, a national network of communities focused on eliminating violence related to African American males. Hear an interview from Connections with Renee Shaw where he talks about the violence-curbing initiatives he helped create in Louisville.

  • Lassie Larue

    Lassie "Niecie" Larue

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    Niecie is an inspirational 2nd grade teacher at JCPS's Brown School. She is also the parent of a teen-aged son. On her nomination, she is described as leading by example. She has earned a Bachelor's Degree in Communications, a Master of Arts in Education, and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Supervision. She is a lifelong learner and frequently states that “one of my goals is to teach students to become lifelong learners in an area of their choosing.”

  • Hasan Davis

    Hasan Davis

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    Hasan’s family fell apart before he even started elementary school. He had learning disabilities, was arrested at age 11, and was expelled from every school he attended. Through the support of a principal and mother who believed in him, he earned a GED® diploma, college and law degrees, and served as Commissioner of Juvenile Justice for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Inspired by those who helped him, today he uses his own experiences to motivate youths and those committed to youth.

  • Ebony Nava

    Ebony Nava

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    Ebony only attended school to the second grade—her parents pulled her out to home school, but they never did. Ebony earned a GED® credential and gained custody of her siblings. Now a college student, she tells how education has changed not only her life, but that of her younger siblings as well.

More Champions

Elsa B. SpurlockLondon, KYEducator
Mary SextonLouisville, KYGoal Clarity Coach
Cindy BaumertLouisville, KY
Prichard Committee
Julie ScoskieLouisville, KY
Louisville Free Public Library
Angella Wilson
Louisville, KY
Leadership Louisville
Kathy Zandova
Louisville, KY
Zandova Consulting
Sandra A. ChambersLouisville, KY
KCTC
Mary Gwen WheelerLouisville, KY
55,000 Degrees
Alexis RobinsonLouisville, KYLouisville, KY Community
Asha FlaoumayLouisville, KYLouisville, KY Community
Kendall E. YoungLouisville, KYLouisville, KY Community
Susan SmithLouisville, KYLouisville, KY Community
Missy BrownsonLouisville, KYLouisville, KY Kentucky Adult Education
Steve CurielHuntington Beach, CAHuntington Beach Adult School
Sarah White
Ft. Myers, FL
Principal, City of Palms Charter High School
Joseph RendonSan Antonio, TX
Superintendent/Principal
Jon Weatherby
New Castle, PATraining and Consultation Staff
LeAnn StewartWhite House, TNDirector of Blended Learning
LaKeisha LawrenceOrangeburg, SC 
Dropout Prevention Coordinator

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