■ For the second year in a row, Henry Clay High School has swept the honors in the Lexington League of Women Voters essay contest. Because of the polarization evident in the mid-term elections, the league challenged students to examine the topic of gerrymandering and its effects on minority votes cast in redistricted majority districts.
First prize of $250 went to sophomore Kayla Beebout for her essay. Freshman Anya Slepyan earned second place and $150. Freshman Evan Vee Hays received third place and $100 for his essay. All three are students in Henry Clay's Liberal Arts Academy. Social studies and government teacher Scott Brown received a $200 award for his role as their mentor.
■ For the eighth consecutive year, public and private school students in Fayette County collected more than 146,000 aluminum cans for recycling during this year's Recycle-Bowl. In terms of weight, students collected 4,180 pounds of aluminum beverage cans in the contest.
Students from 19 Fayette County schools competed to see which schools could collect the most cans for recycling.
The schools that collected and recycled the highest number of cans per student in their respective size category each received $750. The six schools that collected the most cans regardless of their student size category received $450. Additionally, schools were paid by the pound for the cans they recycled through Wise Recycling and Baker Iron and Metal.
First place winners receiving $750 are: Lexington Family Care Center, Russell Cave Elementary and Wellington Elementary
Winners receiving $450 are: Ashland Elementary, Cardinal Valley Elementary, Christ the King School, Lexington Universal Academy, Montessori Middle School and Sayre School
Schools earning certificates of participation are: Bryan Station Middle, Lexington Day Treatment Center, Madeline McDowell Breckinridge Elementary, Mary Todd Elementary, Meadowthorpe Elementary, Montessori High School, Morton Middle, Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School, Rosa Parks Elementary and School for Creative and Performing Arts.
■ Veterans Park Elementary students read more than 1 million minutes during the 2013 Scholastic Summer Challenge, earning them first-place honors in Kentucky and ranking them 35th among the country's top 100 competing schools.
On Dec. 10, representatives from Scholastic came to congratulate Veterans Park, which contributed to the overall record of more than 176 million minutes read and helped propel Kentucky into the Top 20 reading states in the nation. These successes also earned all the students a dance party in each library class at the beginning of the school year.
■ The Kentucky Board of Education has presented the annual Dr. Samuel Robinson Award to co-winners: the Fayette County Equity Council and Ronnie Nolan, director of the Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children. Since 2004, this award has been conferred on an individual or groups for outstanding leadership, commitment and service in promoting equity and opportunity to learn at high levels for all Kentucky students.
In the equity council's nomination letter, Superintendent Tom Shelton wrote, "Their culturally courageous leadership, selfless service and unwavering commitment to children regardless of background or circumstance has played a central role in bringing attention to inequities and catalyzing substantive change."
In presenting the award Dec. 4 in Frankfort, Kentucky Board of Education Chairman Roger Marcum cited some of the council's outstanding accomplishments: Eliminating color-coded lunch passes that identified students who received reduced-price or free meals; modifying student attendance policies to accommodate students who missed school for Jewish and other non-Christian holidays; and ending the custom of female students serving as "little sisters" to male athletes and running errands for them.
Nolan is internationally recognized for his work on truancy and dropout prevention, and under his leadership the collaborative's staff organized the largest conference in Kentucky specifically designed to provide professional development for teachers of at-risk students.
Robinson, for whom the award is named, is a former educator, served on the Kentucky Board of Education from 1991 to 2004 and is known for advocating racial and social justice and for promoting the difference education can make in the lives of all students.
■ Lexington Theological Seminary has received a $250,000 grant as part of Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment's Theological School Initiative to Address Economic Issues Facing Future Ministers. It is one of 67 theological schools across the country to receive this funding.
Personal financial pressures are severely limiting the ability of seminary graduates to accept calls to Christian ministry and undermining the effectiveness of too many pastoral leaders. To help address this issue, Lilly Endowment created the initiative to encourage theological schools to examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future pastors.
The seminary will use its funding to address financial literacy of ministry students, improve institutional practices, and to fuel research on bi-vocational ministers.
■ The Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Eastern Kentucky University has earned a five-year national accreditation as a new program by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The accreditation indicates that Eastern's program "meets high standards of quality and integrity" in doctoral nursing education, according to Mary DeLetter, program coordinator.
The fully online program does not require campus visits. Students and faculty interact through online video conferencing and via telephone and email.
For more information about the program, go to http://bit.ly/1cqNsoh or contact DeLetter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 622-1966 or assistant online coordinator Will Aaron at email@example.com or (859) 622-7837.
■ Russell Carpenter, director of the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity at Eastern Kentucky University, has been elected to a one-year term as chair of the National Association of Communication Centers and a two-year term as president of the Southeastern Writing Center Association.
In 2012, Carpenter chaired conferences at EKU for both organizations.
Carpenter is the only director in Noel Studio's four-year history on the Richmond campus.
■ On Dec. 4, Lexington Catholic students, faculty and staff, together with six area schools (Mary Queen, Seton, St. Agatha, St. John, St. Leo and Sts. Peter and Paul) shared a Mass, followed by possibly the largest secret Santa swap ever.
The Guinness Book of World Records officials still have to give official approval after reviewing documents and video footage, but here are the numbers: the previous world record for a secret Santa swap was 1,270. On Dec. 4, Lexington Catholic High School hosted 1,463 students and adults in its gymnasium, exchanging secret Santa gifts.
Per Guinness rules, guests and students arrived with their wrapped, anonymous gifts and walked through turnstiles (supplied by the Lexington Legends) and a piece of paper for number verification purposes. They deposited their gifts (each addressed to a specific recipient) into one of 15 bins and then entered the school's Bueter Gymnasium for an Advent mass. After mass ended, the 15 gift bins were placed in front of the correct group of recipients, then distributed and opened.
The school provided a large bin as the guests exited the building for people wishing to donate their secret Santa gift to those less fortunate. Gifts will be distributed to local agencies in time for Christmas.
To see pictures of the event, go to Lexington Catholic's Facebook page.