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Louisville’s West End School

A supportive environment can make a huge different in a child’s life. In Louisville, the West End School is providing that environment, along with a program that does more than just teach academics, for elementary and middle school boys.

“West End School is a free, private, non-profit college prep program that is pre-K through the eighth grade,” says LaToya Whitlock, school counselor at the West End School. “To get into the school, essentially you have to qualify for a reduced lunch and have a lot of parental support. We realize that one of the ways that students are most successful is when their families are involved. This isn’t just a college prep or readiness program. This is truly a family.”

Matthew Howell is a science teacher and residential director for the school. He says the school’s focus not just on academic achievement, but on character development, is what sets it apart.

“When [former headmaster] Robert Blair would talk to the kids, he’d say, ‘There are a lot of intelligent people in prison,’” says Howell. “Being intelligent is not the goal. You need intelligence, you need character…and so everything that we do isn’t just around getting the information from the textbook into your brain. It’s also about what’s going on in your heart.”

The residential format means that students have the opportunity to form a strong community in the after-school hours.

“Sometimes I get a little homesick but I know I can get over that,” says student Kwaylen Smith. “My roommate, he’s kind, and we get along. After all our classes we have cleanup. Everybody cleans. They have a section and they clean up the whole school. And then we have athletics, and then we have dinner, study hall, and then we go to bed.”

Howell adds that there is a structured schedule, but they leave room for fun, too, like taking a trip to see the film Black Panther.

For the staff at the West End School, the goal is to be part of a support structure in the lives of the young students.

“We’re a family. We’re a village,” says Whitlock. “There are times when moms and dads don’t agree with what we do and we don’t agree with what they do. But we have those uncomfortable conversations, and we end up coming out with beautiful understandings about what it is that we are trying to do because we know that we’re both doing it out of the love of their child. We see it as a blessing that they are entrusting us with the most beautiful treasures that they have. And we’re kind of the lucky ones in that.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life #2309, which originally aired on April 14, 2018. Watch the full episode.