Tonight I had the good fortune to attend Mayor Uncle Jerry's celebration for the Outstanding High School Seniors of 2009. The award celebrates students who may not be #1 in their class (although there were a fair number of valedictorians in attendance), but who otherwise distinguish themselves as being damned good kids, often through adversity or despite odds.
Around 50 kids, one from each area high school, were honored. There were teen moms with 4.0 averages. Young men who finished their sophomore year with a 1.0 GPA who now are tops in their class. Kids whose folks had died, whose folks had abandoned them, who raised younger siblings, yet still excelled in school. Older students, students with disabilities... stars, all of them.
And here's the thing: Uncle Mayor Jerry asked each kid where he or she was going to college, and around 80% were staying right here at home. Maybe as far away as Murray or UK or Moorehead, but 80% were staying in Kentucky. There was a Yale, an OSU, a Marquette, a USC, a couple Univ of Cincys and Toledos... But, those young moms with the 4.0s (there were at least 3)-- U of L or UK. The kid with the 3.8, president of his class, and quarterback? Bellarmine.
Every so often, I hear Loueyvillagers getting down on their town. Well, this should give you hope. The best and the brightest? A heckuva lot of them are sticking around. And, as guest speaker, Helen Mountjoy, the KY Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, said by way of ribbing our Mayor For Life-- maybe, a long, long time from now one of these kids will run for mayor. But not for a long, long time.