Graduates proud of opportunities provided by OIA

Graduates from Owensboro Innovation Academy marched into the sanctuary at Owensboro Christian Church to “Pomp and Circumstance” on Saturday morning before walking across the stage in front of their peers, teachers, friends and family to receive their high school diplomas. Seventy-three students in total received their diplomas during the ceremony.

“I felt that OIA provided me with so many opportunities that I would have been able to receive at a traditional high school,” said Javion McHenry, 17, who was voted as most respected in his class by his peers.

OIA, which opened in 2015, is a collaborative effort between Owensboro Public Schools, Daviess County Public Schools and Hancock County Schools districts. The school is a project-based learning high school. The school is set up to allow students to work closely with teachers to help build relationships and increase achievements.

McHenry said he plans to continue receiving his education at Owensboro Community and Technical College.

OIA’s principal, Beth Benjamin, said 86% of the students graduating from the school today had already achieved some sort of post-secondary education through an area college or technical school — some of the students had even already earned associates degrees.

“I’m really proud of this group of students,” Benjamin said. “This is the group that stuck through school through the pandemic when it wasn’t always easy. They were all very resilient.”

Benjamin also emphasized this class of students, an increase from last year’s numbers, were responsible and “loved to dance.”

“I’m honored to be able to come together to celebrate the success of these students. They are already so accomplished, socially aware and inclusive,” Benjamin said.

William Wilson, 18, this year’s class president, also took advantage of the opportunities provided to him by OIA. Wilson plans to begin his journey into becoming a mechanical engineer in the fall at Murray State University.

“I’ve been able to go ahead and take some of my filler classes for college, like history and English, so when I get to Murray State University for my undergraduate degree in the fall, I can really focus on the more specified classes for my degree,” Wilson said.

Anita Burnette, OPS’s interim superintendent, encouraged the graduates to “continue to tackle their problems head-on with kindness and consideration” as they have done while in high school at OIA.

“Students, you’ve been provided powerful tools here at OIA,” Burnette said. “Use those skills to pursue your passions and stay involved in your community to create social change as you’ve done while in school.”

Burnette closed her speech before the students received their diplomas with, “Remember, you have the power to make a difference.”