A dance video featuring Bryan Station High staff and students currently making the rounds on social media is more than just a trendy way to begin the school year, said principal James McMillin.
It’s part of the school’s #defendingstation campaign.
“For me it’s really comes down to this,” McMillin told the Herald-Leader. “We are the Defenders. And like the settlers who first defended Bryan Station Fort so long ago, we too must defend our school from the negative image and light it has been placed under over the last few years.”
McMillin has taken several steps to improve Bryan Station High, which a few years ago and under an earlier system was classified by the state as a “priority” or “persistently low-achieving” school with behavior issues documented . The school improved academically and behaviorally on several fronts, and has been transformed into a career academy.
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“It takes between five to 10 years to change a business or schools image,” McMillin said. “ It never happens over night. #defendingstation is a reminder for Lexington that there are amazing things happening in our school and community and that we must make sure and highlight those things as much as the media and community highlights one negative thing.”
“I still run into people who ask where I teach and when I tell them Bryan Station the first words out of their mouth typically isn’t positive. That narrative is slowly beginning to change because the students, staff, alumni, and community continue to highlight all of the amazing things our students are accomplishing each school year. We are the authors of our own story now,” he said.
He said school staff is tapping into the talents of academy students and have been partnering with them to make videos the last three years. Students have filmed, edited, animated, and choreographed many of the videos with staff.
“The staff at The Academies of Bryan Station has learned that school culture eats behavior and academics for breakfast,” he said.
Students have to feel safe, loved, and that the school they are attending has their best interest at heart before they will buy into anything academically or behaviorally, according to McMillin.
“Our students have rallied around the #defendingstation tag and we are on a mission to improve the whole school’s “ABC’s” — Academics, Behavior, Culture,” he said.
McMillin said also the Station Studios page on YouTube includes a video called “justice” which has earned the school some accolades. “It may allow some students to go to New York if we can raise the money to send them. The cost of $10,000 is more than we can afford,” he said.
Teacher Laura Shimko said the significance of the #defendingstation movement is that the campaign has helped students believe in the idea that they are the pride of the north side of Lexington.
“Our students have always been smart and talented, but now that they believe in their abilities, their attitudes toward school and serving their community have changed, “ said Shimko. “Students truly want to defend their northern Lexington community through the way they act and serve their community. Students believe more than ever in the power of themselves. In the past, or at least during my first three years of tenure at Bryan Station, students often sunk to the level of the stereotypes the community labeled them with in terms of fighting and not following the rules, and not caring about learning.”
“The #defendingstation campaign has helped ignite sense of pride and passion for self and community in our students. They believe they can help change our community and city for the better, and they believe they can all grow together to be productive, kind, and informed members of society,” Shimko said.
Jasmine Dunn, the Parent Teacher Student Association President who has a child in every grade at the school, said “Defending Station is my top priority because I was also a defender and love the changes I have seen over the years.”
Shimko said #defendingstation has changed the way students and many community members see students and the school.
“We’ve had a significant decrease in all types of disciplinary infractions, and a steep decline in the hours of suspension and amount of students suspended each year,” she said. “We are currently trying to beat last year’s outstanding data.”