BHS sophomore selected to attend prestigious Gatton Academy

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By Jennifer Corbett

Speaking about her daughter, Samantha, Kathy Netherland recalls a time when the then fourth grader spent almost seven hours writing a personal narrative for her writing portfolio.


Netherland said she her daughter sat on the couch handwriting several pages of her assignment until she was pleased with the final product.

It’s that determination, Kathy said, that helped her daughter become one of 59 students selected from 40 counties — as well as the only person from Nelson County — to attend the prestigious Gatton Academy for its class of 2016.

“I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Kathy, a special education teacher at Bardstown Elementary, said of her daughter. “This was her goal and her dream. Despite everything that has happened over the past year with the loss of her father (Robert Netherland) she was determined and she did this on her own.”

Samantha, a sophomore at Bardstown High School, said she is looking forward to attend Gatton Academy during her junior and senior year of high school.

“I think it’s a pretty big honor to be chosen,” Samantha said. “I didn’t expect to get in at first because I was put on the waiting list. … Come August, I just assumed I didn’t get in. Then last Monday, I got a call that I did get in. I was really excited about that. ”

According to a press release, the goal of the Carol Martin Gatton Academy, which is located at Western Kentucky University, is to enable exceptional young scientists and mathematicians to learn in an environment that offers advanced educational opportunities. At the academy, students live in the dorms at WKU and attend classes.

“Once again, the applicants for the class of 2016 have demonstrated that the depth of outstanding students in Kentucky is substantial,” Tim Gott, director of the Gatton Academy, said in a press release. “Over the past eight years, we have watched the selection process become more and more difficult. This year was the hardest so far.”

Students were evaluated based on their ACT/SAT scores, high school grades, awards, extracurricular activities, responses to essay questions and letters of recommendations.

Students who are selected to attend the academy must have scored at least a 30.4 composite on the ACT and a 30.1 on the mathematics portion of the exam. A 36 is the highest possible score one could get on the ACT.

Samantha also had to go through an interview process to be selected.

“It was fun,” she said of the process. “They make you feel really welcome and they help you get your nerves down.”

Part of the process included taking chemistry placement exam and participating in a Q&A with students.

After attending the Gatton Academy, students will have already gained up to 60 college credit hours.

“Whenever I get to college, I will technically be a junior,” Samantha said.

BHS Principal Chris Pickett said the school has had several students over the last several years selected to attend the Gatton Academy. When it comes to Samantha, Pickett thinks her academic achievement, her dedication to studies and her ability to set a goal and see it through set her a part from other students.

“It is a great honor,” Bardstown City Schools Superintendent Brent Holsclaw said of Samantha’s achievement. “It speaks well of her, her family and of course, Bardstown High School. We’re really pleased and thrilled she’s going to get this wonderful opportunity.”

Samantha, who plans on pursuing a career in marine sciences, said her dream is to work at a place like Newport Aquarium in Northern Kentucky.

“We took our eighth grade trip there and we got to see the behind the scenes sort of stuff, the things people do,” she said. “I saw a huge tank and thought, ‘This is what I want to do so bad.’”

Samantha added that she hasn’t received her class schedule or dorm assignment yet, but she knows she will be staying in Schneider Hall with other Gatton Academy students.

Kathy said she is going to miss her daughter when she is living at the dorms.

“It will be hard the day I have to drop her off,” she said. “I thought I had two more years.”

Asked her thoughts on leaving high school early, Samantha said she excited for her new venture.

“I think I will have some homesickness,” she said. “But I think because of the environment there, and all the staff, I will be fine.”