The KEYS Academy recently celebrated its 15th year on Eastern Kentucky University’s Richmond campus.
The Knowledge – Education – ‘Yes You Can’ Attitude – Scholarship Academy is a week-long, residential camp experience established as a transitional program to provide resources and guidance to middle and high school students enrolled in the regional Southern Kentucky Migrant Education Program.
"This year, the students, the staff, altogether it was an extraordinary group to celebrate the 15th," said Regional Director Michael Hay. The 2018 Academy served 38 students from seven school districts across the region, which includes all of EKU’s primary service area.
Angie Marroquin, a migrant student who will be a high school senior this fall and has been an academy participant in the past, accepted the invitation to serve as a junior camp counselor because she “wanted to be there for new campers as support.”
Academy participants learn to look beyond their current stations in life and see the opportunities to graduate from high school and pursue postsecondary opportunities ranging from entering the workforce, obtaining a certification or license, or attending a two-year or four-year college or university.
As a former migrant student participant, junior camp counselor and now as an EKU student, Joseph Espinoza returned to serve as a staff counselor because he has “a belief in the summer camp’s duty to the students to open their minds to a greater world.”
Participants work through various components of a curriculum derived from the Path to Scholarships program established by teacher and practitioner June McBride. During the experience, academy attendees learn how to create a resume, write a cover letter, tell their stories through written essays, and serve the community.
KEYS Academy Director Jeff Vincent also believes it is important for students to realize their true potential and to set goals to achieve their ambitions. “When students execute and use the tools learned at the KEYS Academy, it is a surreal sense of inspiration observing their dreams and goals come true,” he said.
Participants are also exposed to college and career transition activities, researching a chosen career field and then conducting a presentation to their small group peers about their chosen topic. Students are exposed to real-world financial awareness as they participate in the Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass Finance Park, which allows academy participants to experience real-life lessons in economics, community service and financial literacy; and to gain insights and learn skills for leadership development so they can become role models for others in their own families and the greater migrant education community.
Pablo Marroquin, also a junior camp counselor, said the camp “really helped me become a better leader, and now I want to help new students.”
As the academy closed, students expressed their gratitude and appreciation for their camp counselors and workshop presenters. Veteran staff counselor and current Kentucky classroom teacher Andy Megargel, who has worked at the camp since he was an EKU student in 2007, explained why he returns each year: “It’s hard to put into words how much this camp means to the people involved, but the growth it produces in one week impacts lives forever.”