Nothing invigorates a small town like a local university. Youth, money and skilled labor — they all follow institutions of higher learning.
When town-gown relations are strong, everyone wins. The town’s economy sees a steady stream of young consumers and educated workers, and the university taps into a reliable source of eager students.
In many respects, Kentucky State University, as it slowly emerges from years of turmoil, already fills that role in Frankfort. KSU’s new Early College Academy, which will allow students at Frankfort Independent Schools to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree, is one shining example of that mutually beneficial relationship.
But as Frankfort reaches an inflection point in its history, with the redevelopment of what was most recently the Capital Plaza, local leaders must be even more intentional about strengthening town-gown ties whenever an opportunity presents itself.
The State Journal’s Holly McClurkin highlighted one such opportunity last week when she wrote about how KSU is deploying a $147,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to teach aquaculture in Kentucky high schools.
Still in its first of three years, the grant began by bringing hands-on lessons in fish farming to students in Lexington and in neighboring Henry, Owen and Scott counties. Classrooms in faraway Fleming and Logan counties also benefited.
Certainly, KSU’s world-renowned aquaculture program is a feather in the whole commonwealth’s cap — not just Frankfort’s. But one would expect Frankfort to be ground zero for any grants KSU receives that are intended to expose high school students to science.
In the June news release announcing the grant, KSU listed Western Hills High School as one of the schools it was committed to working with. Nearly a year later, Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Kopp and FCS Director of High Schools Jim Masters say they have not directly received any information about the grant from KSU. Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Houston Barber said he, too, hadn’t been informed about the grant program.
With two years to go before the grant expires, FCS and KSU must not let this opportunity to forge stronger town-gown ties slip away. Bring aquaculture to Frankfort’s high school students next year.