It started out as a conversation at a barbeque last spring between Lexington Catholic High School president Dr. Steve Angelucci and some folks from the Thoroughbred and Saddlebred world. By this fall, when a new freshman class of students is enrolled, the Central Kentucky school will have in place a unique four-year equine program designed to develop tomorrow's industry leaders.
“Some friends were lamenting about the lack of programs in our schools to get young people interested in the horse industry,” Angelucci recalled. “At the same time, Lexington Catholic was exploring what kind of new programs we could offer.”
When Angelucci got back to his office, he began to make some telephone calls.
“I immediately identified eight to 10 people in the equine world that I could reach out to and get their candid thoughts,” he said. “Each person was very enthusiastic about it, and they were willing to help. That's what really struck me: how quickly people were willing to help. Every conversation built on itself. No one said ‘no.' By September I knew it was going to happen.”
The newly minted Equine Academy, which will be available to incoming freshman this fall, is not designed as a vocational program to put high school graduates immediately into equine industry careers but as a stepping-stone to college. “We are trying to develop tomorrow's leaders, not necessary the foot soldiers, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way,” said Angelucci. “It's attached to a very good high school.”
LCHS, a faith-based institution formed in 1951 with the merger of two schools – St. Catherine's Academy and Lexington Latin School – has an enviable track record of placing 99% of its graduates in college, with 82% gaining acceptance to their first-choice college. The four-year school has just over 800 students.
Angelucci said the Equine Academy was originally designed to begin with one class of 24 students but that the immediate feedback has been so overwhelming it may need to double the number to 48.
“We are going to grow it slowly,” he said. “There will be two courses for freshmen, then we'll begin courses for sophomores the following year. We don't want to have more than 24 in a section of each class.
Angelucci credited a number of individuals and families from different breeds for enthusiastically supporting the concept from the outset, including Boyd Browning of Fasig-Tipton; Keeneland's Nick Nicholson; his brother, John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park; Steve and Cindy Stewart from the Standardbred industry's Hunterton Farm; the Taylor family of Taylor Made farm and sales agency; the Bell family; and Dr Pearse Lyons of Alltech.
An advisory board, chaired by Robyn P. Roach, includes individuals from various breeds of horses.
Academic partners include Georgetown College, Midway College, and the University of Kentucky.
In addition to yearly equine-related curriculum components, the Equine Academy will offer hands-on laboratories and practical application; group and individual service projects; relationship-building with equine professionals; and mentorship and research opportunities.
As currently designed, the curriculum for freshmen will encompass an introduction to equine science and introduction to the equine industry. Sophomore studies will include anatomy and physiology, along with health care, nutrition and management. Juniors will study the equine athlete, focusing on proper training methods and prevention of lameness, as well as reproduction and farm management. Senior studies will focus on equine business and marketing and require a capstone research project.
Applications will be reviewed by committee and the process will require completion of applications to both Lexington Catholic and the Equine Academy (including student essay), an interview with the application committee, and teacher and equine-related recommendations. Cost of the program will be $1,000 for the 2012-13 academic year, in addition to Lexington Catholic tuition. Other program costs may be required.
Angelucci said the long-range plan is to attract students outside of Central Kentucky and to offer tuition assistance.
“I've already received emails from people out of our market,” he said. “Our primary target is to get this up and running the right way. Particularly after the first year, if we are successful, we would like to accommodate families from outside of Central Kentucky.”
When asked what he wants high school students to gain most from the Equine Academy, Angelucci said simply: “We want to help kids realize they can have a career in the horse industry.”
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Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made in support of Lexington Catholic High School's Equine Academy. Three Chimneys will be donating $100 each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
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