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Bryan Station High School group finds path to college well-lit by Transylvania University

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

For juniors and seniors who anticipate pursuing college scholarships, a series of mock interviews with staff and students at Transylvania University was a welcome chance to present their strengths and rehearse their pitches.

“I fidget a lot and am really nervous and talk with my hands, so to come here and get the practice, I really love that,” said Taelaesha Hale, one of nearly a dozen students from Lexington’s Bryan Station High School visiting the Transy campus, also in Lexington. “It makes you feel better about submitting applications and separating yourself from the crowd,” she added.

Through Transy's College Empowerment Program, a group of Bryan Station High students visits campus to network with staff and learn about college life. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)

Through Transy’s College Empowerment Program, a group of Bryan Station High students visits campus to network with staff and learn about college life. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)

Transylvania invited the Bryan Station group to take part in its College Empowerment Program, which is designed to help prepare teens for college and careers. Five times throughout this school year, the students spend time on the Transy campus where they can explore the steps to admissions and financial aid; network with faculty, staff and other professionals; and learn about the myriad options college provides. During lunch, the group also has informal chats with community guests such as the mayor and a state lawmaker.

“It’s a good opportunity for them to communicate in an academic setting and a public setting. Networking is a skill that not a lot of adults are great at,” said Serenity Wright, associate dean for Diversity and International Student Experiences.

Heather Zoll Eppley, head of the Academy of Information Technology at Bryan Station, believes the mentor relationships at Transy will truly benefit her students as they tackle what can be an overwhelming process.

“The financial sessions next semester will be huge for the kids because a lot of them don’t have anyone in their families to help them navigate that,” she added.

'I'm also learning social skills and soft skills,' said senior Patrick O'Doherty, right.

In one session, students rotated through three rounds of mock scholarship interviews and received a variety of feedback.

The Digital Liberal Arts coordinator in Transy’s computer science department has been working with the IT Academy, which fostered the connection with Bryan Station. Eppley then handpicked 10 students for the College Empowerment Program based on socioeconomic and diversity factors. For instance, Taelaesha will be the first person in her family to attend college, and girls remain underrepresented in IT circles.

“Taelaesha wants to go to Transy, so for her to be on this campus four or five times and get to meet the admissions staff, it’ll be a huge benefit for her,” said Tina Williams, an IT Academy board member.

In the most recent session, Williams assisted with the three rounds of mock interviews and offered some advice. For instance, she told Taelaesha to think of how she had handled a tough situation and keep that story in mind. That’s the type of question students might expect, along with “What power would you most like to wield if you were a superhero?”

“The person across the table expects you to toot your own horn and tell them why they should want you at their school or at their (company),” Williams noted.


‘I’m also learning social skills and soft skills,’ said senior Patrick O’Doherty, right.

In the September visit, the teens toured Transy’s Career Development Center and spoke with counselors about what colleges look for in resumes and admissions essays. “It’s really awesome, and I’ve gotten a lot of resources,” said senior Patrick O’Doherty. “It’s a lot of good information, and I can better prepare myself to apply for college and jobs. I’m also learning social skills and soft skills.”

The upcoming campus visits are set for Jan. 8, Feb. 5 and March 24. Topics will include federal student aid, living in community, student involvement and leadership, and academic resources and study skills. Afterward, the students will debrief and talk about how to share the experience with their peers at Bryan Station. “They will pick younger students to be involved next year so it becomes like a mentor program,” Eppley said.

Wright explained that Transy’s empowerment initiative aims to expose high school students to accessible opportunities that ensure success and to build up their self-confidence.

“These children have amazing stories and they’re amazing people,” she said. “We’re trying to help them figure out how to tell their story.”

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools.

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