On Saturday (May 14), 58 students representing 38 counties from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky were recognized during The Gatton Academy’s ninth graduation ceremony in Van Meter Hall.
Gatton Academy Executive Director and Mahurin Professor of Gifted Education Dr. Julia Roberts expressed that the graduation ceremony was a celebration for the entire Commonwealth.
“Today is a day of celebration for Gatton Academy graduates and their families,” Roberts said. “These young people are well prepared for the next steps in their preparation for leadership in STEM careers. We congratulate our 2016 Gatton Academy graduates.”
Gatton Academy Director Dr. Lynette Breedlove shared her praise for the graduating seniors and her gratitude for the WKU faculty and staff members in making The Gatton Academy both a rewarding and challenging educational experience for Kentucky.
“Thanks to the dedication and support of the faculty and staff across WKU, our students have had rewarding and rigorous opportunities to explore and develop their academic interests,” Breedlove said. “Our graduates have excelled as they persevered through this intense experience and all are now prepared for the infinite possibilities that lay ahead of them.”
Six members of the class were selected as National Merit finalists; four seniors earned National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarships; two students were recognized as semifinalists in the Siemens competition; 88 percent of the class participated in faculty-sponsored research during their time at the Academy; nine graduates completed the school’s STEM + Critical Languages curriculum in either Arabic or Chinese; 90 percent of the senior class studied abroad while at The Gatton Academy; 74 percent of the graduating class completed 60 or more hours of service during their two years at The Gatton Academy; and, as a class, they completed 3,110 service hours.
Noah Latham, a graduating senior from Franklin, reflected on every aspect of his two years at Gatton when writing his speech.
“I have yet to congratulate anyone, and that is because the word congratulations as we normally think about it is reserved for valedictorians and their speeches,” Latham said. “For the audience of other speeches, ‘congratulations’ conveys survival. Surviving the academics, the social life and the terrible lunches, but we have done so much more than survive at Gatton. We have thrived.”
Dr. C. June Maker delivered the commencement address. Dr. Maker is a Professor in the Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies at the University of Arizona. Since earning her bachelor’s degree from WKU, Dr. Maker has become one of the foremost minds in gifted education and received an honorary doctorate earlier Saturday from her alma mater.
“I want to give you my six steps for success that I have found throughout my life and my research,” Dr. Maker said. “These are have a dream, have passion, show compassion, have vitality, repose, and focus on the jewels within you.”
Rebecca Wood, a graduating senior from Maysville, looked toward the future after completing her last final.
“So I sat there for a while after finishing the test to the best of my abilities, thinking about the normal things Gatton students think of. Food. Naps. Food. Harry Potter,” Wood said. “The J.K. Rowling quote came to my head: ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.’ And I do truly believe this is the case with The Gatton Academy. In looking to the future, I know that we always will be welcome back to the community that helped us grow intellectually, socially and physically.”
In the fall of 2016, students from the graduating class will attend 24 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada: Arizona State University, Centre College, Gettysburg College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Northeastern University, Purdue University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Stanford University, The Ohio State University, The University of Alabama, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, United States Coast Guard Academy, University of Hartford, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, University of Toronto, Vanderbilt University, Washington University in St. Louis, West Virginia University and WKU.
Members of The Gatton Academy Class of 2016
- Michael Belcher (Barren County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Elizabeth Pulsifer (Larry A. Ryle High School), a graduate with distinction
- Alexandra Wright (Larry A. Ryle High School), a graduate with distinction
- Hayden Justice (Boyle County High School)
- Joshua Ray (Home School)
- Maria Long (Bullitt East High School), a graduate with honors
- Anne Barrett Wetzel (Caldwell County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Rodrigo Daboin Sanchez (Calloway County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Riley Walch (Bishop Brossart High School), a graduate with honors
- James Styers (Carlisle County High School)
- Luci Keller (Christian County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Luke Knight (Christian County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Seth Marksberry (Daviess County High School)
- Harsh Moolani (Daviess County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Graham Reynolds (Daviess County High School)
- Jenna Ellis (Gallatin County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Nolan Calhoun (Grant County High School), a graduate with honors
- Andrew Davis (Williamstown High School), a graduate with distinction
- Laney Brager (Hancock County High School)
- Esther Huggins (Elizabethtown High School), a graduate with honors
- Terrance Life (Central Hardin High School)
- Dustin Avery (Hart County High School)
- Alex Senig (Hart County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Brigid Walters (Hart County High School)
- Jeremiah Wayne (Henderson County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Rachel Cooper (Louisville Collegiate School)
- Malia Latimer (Louisville Male High School)
- Logan Nofsinger (duPont Manual High School), a graduate with distinction
- Amanda White (Ballard High School), a graduate with distinction
- Wendy Loomis (Beechwood High School)
- Niven Achenjang (Knox Central High School)
- Kristen Pedersen (Barbourville High School), a graduate with distinction
- Lauren Pedersen (Barbourville High School), a graduate with distinction
- Leslie Pike (LaRue County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Patrick Rivera (Lyon County High School)
- Donald “D.J.” Price (Marion County High School)
- Rebecca Wood (Mason County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Alexandrea Pike-Goff (Meade County High School), a graduate with honors
- Taylor Bowman (Montgomery County High School)
- Rohan Deshpande (Oldham County High School)
- Zachary Wesley (Southwestern High School), a graduate with honors
- Eura Shin (Rowan County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Luke Miles (Scott County High School)
- Nolan Hughes (Shelby County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Emma Saarinen (Shelby County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Noah Latham (Franklin-Simpson High School), a graduate with distinction
- Joshua Baunach (Spencer County High School), a graduate with distinction
- Megan Brown (Home School), a graduate with honors
- Jared Chase Carney (Taylor County High School)
- Corey Goodwin (Trigg County High School)
- Hayden Brooks (Crittenden County High School)
- Saadia Akhtar (Greenwood High School), a graduate with distinction
- Juan Atehortua (Bowling Green High School)
- Linyue Joy Fan (South Warren High School), a graduate with distinction
- Alexander Gelderman (Bowling Green High School)
- Whitney Heard (Bowling Green High School)
- William Hornsby (Greenwood High School)
- Emily Keeter (Western Hills High School)
Note: Graduate with Honors are recognized for a cumulative Academy GPA of 3.4 or higher, participation in at least two semesters of research, and completion of 60 hours or more of community service. Graduate with Honors—Distinction are recognized for a cumulative Academy GPA of 3.7 or higher, participation in at least two semesters of research with a research presentation or publication, and completion of 60 hours or more of community service.
About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential high school for gifted and talented junior and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. The Gatton Academy has been named to the Washington Post’s list of top-performing schools with elite students for eight consecutive years and was named the number one public high school in the United States by The Daily Beast for three consecutive years – 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Contact: Zack Ryle, (270) 745-2971.