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Danville Gateway presentations give students a chance to show their growth and plan for the future 

With nervous anticipation, eighth-grader Madison Terrell stepped in a room before a panel to began sharing about herself, her family, her strengths and weaknesses and her future plans — all part of her Gateways Presentation to enable the teen to complete the school year and start next fall as a freshman at Danville High School.

After the presentation, Terrell admitted: “I don’t love talking about myself. I always get nervous when I do that.”

This is the fifth year for the presentations, explained Judy Spellacy, director of elementary education in the district. The presentations are for fifth- and eighth-graders, and are done in Young Hall on the campus of Centre College. Seniors also have a Gateways presentation, referred to as their senior capstones.

It is only the second year that all fifth grade students have been bused to the campus, she said.

“They each did it a bit differently before,” Spellacy said of the fifth grade Gateway Presentations.

The presentations are only a part of the overall Gateway Projects, which become more advanced for each grade level. 

For eighth grade students, for example, it involves writing components and drafting a course plan to follow their desired career path, and includes “taking inventory” of their Danville Diploma skills. 

The Danville Diploma includes various components, ranging from creativity and managing time, to taking college-level courses or earning career certifications. They also learn what it means to be a responsible citizen; something that follows students from kindergarten to their senior year. 

The Gateway Presentation, the final step of the process, requires the student stepping before a panel of two to three people, consisting of any combination of teachers, central office staff, board members, individuals from the Kentucky Department of Education and community members, including workforce development and chamber of commerce representatives.

“They present on the Danville Diploma skills and how they are applying them. Eighth graders are showing how they have developed (from fifth grade),” Spellacy said.

The eighth grade presentations consist of five components: who are you; who do you wish to become; what will be your path; which Danville Diploma skills fit you best; and how will you present yourself. 

The students doing eighth grade presentations on Wednesday had also gone through the fifth grade presentations — some, such as Terrell, under Spellacy’s tutelage while the principal at Toliver Elementary School.

Terrell said she prepared by reviewing the guidelines given to the students, and coming up with the topics and points that would work for each one.

“I kind of picked a couple of topics that I liked for each one and kept going,” Terrell said. “I have a couple of bullet points for each, that way I don’t read off of it the whole time, and random notes to myself about those couple of components for each.”

She shared with her panel about her love for basketball, her enjoyment of soccer and how much she liked playing guitar in her church. Terrell also shared about her enjoyment of crafts, bringing a yarn-wrapped letter she had made to show.

Terrell brought pictures of her family to show, as they have had an impact on her.

“I have four younger siblings — this has really shaped who I am because it’s made me really responsible. I babysit a lot, so I’ve learned to take care of kids,” Terrell said. “I love them so much.”

Her youngest brother is from Ethiopia.

“I had the privilege of going there when I was in the third grade. It was the greatest experience of my life.”

She shared about her Myers-Briggs Personality Type (a personality test) , something she said was important in her family.

“It helps us learn more about each other; helps us have more compassion for each other,” Terrell said.

While she doesn’t have her future plans hammered down yet, Terrell said she was looking at the idea of being a teacher because she loved working with kids. She’s also interested in being a physical therapist because she enjoyed the idea of working with athletes,  and even potentially going into mission work, because she has a heart for Ethiopia.  

She has researched what kind of classes each field would require and what would be good to take.

Pulling from the Danville Diploma, she shared that her strengths are time management, leadership, and taking initiative.

“You need to be careful with how you use them,” she said, explaining that these strengths can also become weaknesses too easily.

To close out her just over five minute presentation, Terrell shared Ephesians 2:8-9.

“I did not earn anything I have done, or any of my strengths or personalities. It’s all a gift from him and I need to use those strengths and weaknesses to glorify him,” she said.

While waiting before or after their presentations, students participated in a “breakout room” and were given a tour of the campus before or after they present.

Terrell said that was interesting, she thought, because she never knew much about Centre College before, despite living in Danville.

Overall, Terrell said she likes the Gateway presentations.

“ … A lot of times, it feels like school might be all about grades. But at Danville it’s not. There’s so many other components for the Gateway,” Terrell said. “This is nothing about our grades. It’s just presenting ourselves, and talking about where we want to go.”

“I like how it’s individualized and how everyone gets to talk about who they are, regardless of their grades or the background they come from. I think that’s really cool.”