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The Providence School dedicated after $7 million transformation

After several years in Wilmore, The Providence School is back where it was before on the north side of Nicholasville, but it isn’t the same as it was before.

The alternative school, ranked one of the best in Kentucky, returned this year to the former Computrex campus off Catnip Hill Road, but not until after the building had undergone a $7 million renovation and expansion from 14,000 to 19,000 square feet.

And last week, on a splendid spring evening, the Providence “family” gathered outdoors behind the newly renovated building for a dedication ceremony.

“This building looks completely different,” Daniel Harris, a 2010 Providence graduate and the keynote speaker for the event, said. “I wouldn’t imagine that you would ever see this kind of growth, but here it is. It is something to behold.”

Harris, a student at Bluegrass Community and Technical College and an employee of Fitch’s IGA in Wilmore, centered much of his speech on a woman who means a great deal to him and for whom a part of the school was named — Denise Adams, founder of The Providence School and its first principal, and now a member of the Jessamine County Board of Education.

“She’s been a light in my life for the past 24 years,” he said, and he thanked her on behalf of other Providence students whose lives she helped improve.

“Thank you, Mrs. Adams,” he said. “Thank you for your commitment.”

After the unveiling of a sign naming part of the building for her, Adams said she had no idea.

“I’m humbled. I’m honored. … I’m just surprised,” she said.

Steven Scrivner, chair of the Board of Education, welcomed the guests to the dedication and a group of students and Providence teacher Sean Goggin gave a musical performance of Jason Mraz’ “I’m Yours.”

Principal Eric Sowers and Superintendent Matt Moore made remarks bookending Harris’ speech, and Pastor Kaleb Phillips offered a prayer of dedication.

“Getting a project of this magnitude from conception to reality is a team effort,” Scrivner said, as he recognized leaders including former Superintendents Linda France and Lu Young, other school officials, and state and local officials, and the building design and construction team, Ross Tarrant Architects and Isaac Tatum Construction Inc. led by project manager Val Gallutia.

“Only a community can make a school like this grow and become what it has become,” Sowers said. “The investment this community has made in our school, our staff, and our students has paid off.”

In 2003, Adams and other school leaders combined three programs to form The Providence School: the Independent High School, Wide Open Spaces, and the program Adams led at the time, Jessamine Central. Moore said each program had a different focus. The independent school’s focus was on credit recovery, Jessamine Central was more of a traditional alternative school and Wide Open Spaces was more like what The Providence School has become — an innovative program that reaches out to students who attend the school by choice because it provides the kind of instruction they need.

The Providence School has been named one of only 11 alternative programs of distinction in the state.

Sowers said that over the past 18 years, Providence has served more than 4,000 students, and it has had 789 graduates. That may not seem like a high graduation number, Sowers said, until one considers that Providence students are a “transient population” with a turnover that sometimes exceeds 50 percent, and some of its programs, such as the night school, are temporary.
Sowers mentioned that there are former Providence students who are now in medical school, some are military officers, others are educators.

Part of the credit goes to the school’s highly skilled teachers, he said.

“You just keep watching because this staff is going to do things with students that you’ve never seen done before,” he said.

Moore, a former alternative school teacher himself, called Providence’s staff “the difference makers.”

He read a list of goals he collected from his former students. One student wanted to get a house for “my mom and me,” another wanted to start a local Humane Society, others talked about finishing high school, going to college, finding their true meaning in life, having a family, being a better person.

“You’ll notice that the focus point of this list doesn’t include fame, fortune or immortality,” he said.

Providence students want what everyone wants, to have their basic needs met and to make a contribution to society, he said, and they are fortunate to have “an incredible staff” to help them realize their dreams.

They also now have the kind of school facility they deserve.

“I’m beyond proud and grateful to say that we now have a structure that reflects the work and values that we place in these students, their education, and their future,” Moore said.

“Welcome home, Providence. Welcome home,” he said.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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