Sat. May 30th, 2020



BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – On Saturday, 86 students representing 43 counties from across the Commonwealth of Kentucky were recognized during The Gatton Academy’s 12th graduation ceremony in Western Kentucky University’s Van Meter Hall.

Gatton Academy Executive Director and Mahurin Professor of Gifted Education Dr. Julia Roberts expressed that the graduation ceremony was a celebration for Kentucky.

“Graduation at The Gatton Academy presents a time to celebrate – graduates, their families, and citizens around the Commonwealth,” Roberts said.  “Gatton graduates are well on their way to being leaders in Kentucky’s future.”

Gatton Academy Director Dr. Lynette Breedlove shared her praise for the graduating seniors and her gratitude for the WKU faculty and staff members in making The Gatton Academy both a rewarding and challenging educational experience for Kentucky.

“Graduating from The Gatton Academy requires perseverance and persistence.  These remarkable students have thrived in rigorous classrooms, explored the world through study abroad, and contributed in numerous areas with their research,” Breedlove said.  “These opportunities were made possible through the support of WKU’s exemplary faculty and staff, for which we are grateful.  We are excited to watch each graduate’s next steps as they pursue their future of infinite possibilities.”

Twenty members of the class were selected as National Merit finalists, six seniors earned National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarships, and two were Goldwater Scholarship recipients. Eighty-four percent of the class participated in faculty-sponsored research during their time at The Gatton Academy, and eighteen graduates completed the school’s STEM + Critical Languages curriculum in either Arabic or Chinese. Eighty-eight percent of the senior class studied abroad while at The Gatton Academy.  The graduating class completed a total of 5,465 hours of service during their two years at The Gatton Academy, which is an average of 63.6 hours per graduating senior and amounts to an economic value of nearly $135,000.

Samantha Vaughn, a graduating senior from Crestwood, took time to feature several of her class members, and in the end, thought back to what she will remember from the past two years.

“But if I leave you all with my one lesson to take from Gatton, it’s not go forth and make a 4.0, but instead be your biggest fan,” Vaughn said.  “All these people  (Class of 2019) are going to be really good at their jobs someday, but that isn’t what makes me proud and so blessed to have known them, instead it’s their willingness to help, their contagious laughter, and their devotion.”

Professor Walker Rutledge delivered the commencement address.  Professor Rutledge has taught 346 Gatton Academy students, the vast majority abroad on our annual Harlaxton study abroad program.  Professor Rutledge reminisced on what he views as a Gatton Scholar.

“If Ralph Waldo Emerson were here today endeavoring to find complete human beings, he could do no better than to define them as Gatton Scholars.  You are Gatton Scholars, and you are in good company,” Rutledge remarked.  “Gatton Scholars, the usual commencement speaker is expected to offer sage and ponderous advice, which no one remembers, but not this speaker.  I trust that I am smarter than that.  You are already amazing, multitalented ladies and gentlemen.  Just continue what you are already doing and what your predecessors have been doing, and continue being open to exploring the delicious possibilities that lie ahead.”

Union Star senior Chance Peterson paused to reflect on those who helped guide each student there.   “We climbed off the shoulders of our giants (parents, but grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and coaches) that had led the way for us and we began marching by ourselves through the halls of The Gatton Academy.”

“For this crossroad is coming to an end, and the measure of our time here will not be what college we got in to. What career we choose. Or how much money we’re going to make,” reflected Peterson. “Instead the measure will be of how much we loved one another and how we stood up for each other.”

In the fall of 2019, students from the graduating class will attend 32 colleges and universities across the United States and the world: University of Alabama in Huntsville, Appalachian State University, Arizona State University, California Institute of Technology, University of California-Berkeley, Case Western Reserve University, Centre College, University of Cincinnati, Georgetown College, Georgetown University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Indiana University Bloomington, Johns Hopkins University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University of Mississippi, New York University Abu Dhabi, Northeastern University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Rice University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Thomas More University, Tulane University, Vanderbilt University, University of Washington, and Western Kentucky University.


Members of The Gatton Academy’s Class of 2019

Allen County

  • Sydney Wheeler (Greenwood High School) *

Barren County

  • Katie Karl (Barren County High School) *

Boone County

  • Koushik Devarakonda (Larry A. Ryle High School) *
  • Rithwik Ghanta (Randall K. Cooper High School)*
  • Garrett Holley (Larry A. Ryle High School)
  • Emma Keller (Conner High School)
  • Lea Mitchell (Conner High School) *
  • Connor Patterson (Larry A. Ryle High School)*
  • William Jared Rodgers (Walton-Verona High School)
  • Briley Thompson (Conner High School)*

Boyle County

  • Elaina Fluty (Boyle County High School)

Breckinridge County

  • Chancellor Peterson (Breckinridge County High School)

Bullitt County

  • Grace Martini (North Bullitt High School) *

Christian County

  • Gillian Brown (Todd County Central High School)*
  • Kennedy Pendleton (Hopkinsville High School)*

Clay County

  • Megan Whittle (Clay County High School)*

Daviess County

  • Emma Lamb (Daviess County High School)*
  • Satya Moolani (Daviess County High School)*

Fayette County

  • Pranay Agrawal (Paul L. Dunbar High School)*
  • Jackson Codispoti (Lafayette High School)
  • Elvin Irihamye (Paul L. Dunbar High School)*
  • Ivy Irihamye (Paul L. Dunbar High School)*
  • Hannah Shapiro (Henry Clay High School)*
  • Ethan Volk (Tates Creek High School)
  • Sarah Yaacoub (Lafayette High School) *

Franklin County

  • Abdullah Ateyeh (Western Hills High School)*
  • Julia Martinez (Western Hills High School)
  • Sasha Sairajeev (Franklin County High School)*
  • Zoë Ward (Western Hills High School)*

Gallatin County

  • Carson Freeman (Gallatin County High School)

Grayson County

  • Senior Student (Grayson County High School)* Note: Student did not give permission for name to be used in press release

Hancock County

  • Wyatt Powers(Hancock County High School)
  • Kayla Woodward(Hancock County High School) *

Hardin County

  • Drew Aubry(John Hardin High School) *
  • Robert Sego (Central Hardin High School)*
  • Lily Vowels (John Hardin High School) *

Hart County

  • Braydon Peavler(Barren County High School)

Henderson County

  • Gopika Gopan(Henderson County High School)
  • Deegan Lawrence(Henderson County High School)
  • Zane Polley(Henderson County High School) *

Jefferson County

  • Andre Battle (Fern Creek High School)
  • Elizabeth Hedrick (duPont Manual High School) *
  • Wyatt Ringo(Trinity High School) *
  • Julia Stekardis(duPont Manual High School) *
  • Jason Tran (duPont Manual High School)

Jessamine County

  • Michael Naughton (West Jessamin High School)
  • Lauren Young (Lexington Catholic High School) *

Kenton County

  • Caden Dosier (Simon Kenton High School) *
  • Helen Elizabeth Roebker (Notre Dame Academy & Dixie Heights High School) *

Knott County

  • Georgia Hoffman (Knott County Central High School) *

LaRue County

  • Richard Pike (Homeschool)*

Lawrence County

  • Shaylon Moore (Lawrence County High School)
  • Bailey Thompson (Lawrence County High School) *

Logan County

  • Anna Shoulders (Russellville High School)

Madison County

  • Mwenda Monda Singai (Lexington Catholic High School) *

Marshall County

  • Jackson Chumbler (Marshall County High School)

McCracken County

  • Reinhard Matthew Knerr (McCracken County High School)*

Meade County

  • Madison Ellis (Meade County High School)*
  • Elizabeth Embry (Meade County High School)*
  • Gabrielle Kitchen (Meade County High School)

Monroe County

  • William Burroughs (Monroe County High School)
  • Graham Stephens (Monroe County High School)

Muhlenberg County

  • Emma Poole (Muhlenberg County High School) *

Nelson County

  • Sereniti Jade Coulter (Thomas Nelson High School)*

Oldham County

  • Grace Bauer (Oldham County High School)
  • Trivan Menezes (Oldham County High School)*
  • Samantha Vaughn (South Oldham High School) *

Owen County

  • Victor Paul Portmann (Franklin County High School)*

Pulaski County

  • Samantha Kitchen (Southwestern High School)*

Rockcastle County

  • Evan Hendrickson (Rockcastle County High School) *

Rowan County

  • Benjamin Davison (Rowan County Senior High School)
  • Alexander Stewart (Rowan County Senior High School)*

Scott County

  • Devin Davis (Scott County High School)*

Simpson County

  • Isabella Uhls (Franklin-Simpson High School) *

Spencer County

  • Seth Baunach (Spencer County High School) *

Taylor County

  • Hannah Congleton (Trimble County High School)*

Union County

  • Benjamin Clements (Union County High School)
  • Anna Dong (Union County High School) *

Warren County

  • Annika Avula (Bowling Green High School)
  • Isabel Chumbler (Bowling Green High School) *
  • Rithik Reddy (Bowling Green High School) *
  • Aashka Sheth (Bowling Green High School) *
  • Anna Strunjas (Bowling Green High School) *
  • Daniel Yan (South Warren High School)
  • David Yan (South Warren High School)

Woodford County

  • Madeline Springate (Woodford County High School) *

* Gatton Community Scholar

These graduates are recognized for completing two semesters of research with a research outcome that is presented to a professional audience after being accepted through a vetted process OR four semesters of participation in STEM+Critical Languages, AND documenting 60 hours of service.

About The Gatton Academy: Established in 2007, The Gatton Academy is Kentucky’s first residential two-year program for gifted and talented junior and seniors. The Gatton Academy’s students enroll as juniors and are full-time WKU students pursuing their interests in advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematical careers. The Gatton Academy has been named to Jay Mathews’ list of top-performing schools with elite students, marking the 10th consecutive appearance.

Please Leave a Reply