Hancock County High School’s partnership with Owensboro Innovation Academy (OIA), for almost a decade, gives students who’ve chosen the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics (STEAM/STEM) field as their focus, an opportunity to really hone-in on those subjects.
There are currently 4 HCHS students enrolled in OIA this school year, one freshman, 2 sophomores and a junior. They are bussed to OIA in the morning from HCHS, and then back in early afternoon via Hancock County Schools’ Transportation Department. HCHS remains their home base.
JoVonna Smiley, Guidance Counselor at HCHS, said, “It is a wonderful partnership that we have. OIA classes are much more hands-on and they go into a lot more depth in those types of courses than what the traditional public high school setting does.
The kids very much enjoy the rigor of the curriculum. They like to be able to dive a little bit deeper into those topics they are wanting to explore. It’s a much more personalized experience.”
Jacob Hodge, Junior at HCHS, is in his second year of attending classes at OIA and has chosen the computer science pathway.
He is the son of Mary Hodge, Instructional Assistant at HCHS, and Alan Hodge, Green Beret, Veteran and Advisor for the United States Marine Corps – Marine Forces Special Operations Command. Jacob’s sister, Lexi, is a junior in college studying special and elementary education.Jacob is currently taking trigonometry, introduction to computer science, cyber security, English 3, biology and a class titled “Maker’s Space” – his favorite. He has earned some college credits as well, by taking a math course through KWC.
“Mainly I try to focus on Maker’s Space,” Jacob said. “I really enjoy that class. If they want something 3D printed, that’s the class where they have students take care of that. We have 6 printers that can print out 8x8x8 and 2 that can print larger.”
One project he is currently working on, is printing parts for medical dummies that students at OIA will use for learning in their classrooms. “When there hasn’t been a school project coming in,” he said, “we have been devoting our printers to printing these. We are able to put detail into them and help classes understand how the body looks and where certain organs of the body are. They could potentially be used for other schools if this is a large success.
I like to work with my hands and actually see something be made. Being able to work in the Maker’s Space and going through the process of taking in orders and fulfilling them and seeing these be made, I have enjoyed that.
I do not believe I would be able to go through that exact experience at any other high school. There are less students per class, so there’s a tiny bit less class load for teachers and they are able to have more personal connections and help the students more than if there were 5-10 more students in the class.”
Jacob says OIA is not a school for everyone. “If you are focusing on the STEAM courses,” he said, “it is an excellent school for any job within that sort of curriculum. For my particular field, I do feel like I am a bit more prepared. There are many options that OIA gives that can help many different kinds of students if they are trying to go for a job in those programs.
One thing I have enjoyed is, sometimes they’ll pull-in people in businesses from the community and have them come in and help us with projects. We can actually see some first-hand accounts of what it would be like to work within some of these fields.”
Jacob enjoys taking concert and marching band at HCHS. “I have been in the band since 2019 when we won state,” he said. “We leave OIA at about 1:30, and we come back and make it in time for band class and are able to participate in band and marching band. I am in percussion. During concert band, I mainly play crash cymbals but during marching band I play the piano.”
He plans to attend OCTC after graduation, and earn his degree to be an electrician. “I’d like to become a construction electrician,” he said. “I’m unsure of the area or location I’d like to work in…I plan on being an electrician because I know that is a job that is in demand and for a long time will almost always be in demand no matter where it is located.”
Tom Magan, Guidance Counselor at HCHS, said the students who attend OIA have a schedule “very much tailored to their needs.”
“They can take college classes, dual credit classes, basic classes, engineering, etc,” Tom said, “then they come back and can take electives such as band. Anything that they take down there is transferred back to us as college credit or high school credit. If time is a constraint – a kid goes down there and they need certain classes and they can’t get their science class in, then they’ll come back to us and take science here.
We really try to partner together to get them their needs. Whatever the kid needs – if they can’t get it there, we’ll get it for them here. If they want to stay in an extracurricular here, we can do that.
Our transportation department has done a good job with that. That’s 4 trips because they take them to OIA, come back, do their regular route as well and go back and get them, and then come back to HCHS.
That’s one thing that our district really thinks is important – if we have an option that could work for a kid that we can partner with another district – we want to offer as much as we can to the kids. A lot of that cost comes out of the district but they’re willing to do it to make sure kids have that opportunity. The district support is tremendous.
In the 27 years I’ve been here, very rarely are you told no. You just have to be able to show your plan and what will work and they are always willing to try to help as much as they can. Our county does a really good job making sure kids get what they need and most of what they want too.”
For more information about OIA, please visit: https://docs.google.