Robin Kinney smiles along with the award winners, who are holding glass trophies.

The Bluegrass Community Health Center (BCHC) and Keith Schneider, president of Square 1, were presented with the Kentucky Board of Education’s Kelly Award for Business and Education Partnership at its Oct. 11 meeting. Interim Commissioner of Education Robin Kinney, from left, presented the awards to Elizabeth Kinney, BCHC director of clinical operations; Tara Cruse, APRN, medical provider; Dr. A. Stevens Wrightson, chief executive officer of BCHC; Dr. Rhonda Mullins, chief operating officer; and Schneider, president of Square 1. Photo by Joe Ragusa, Oct. 11, 2023

The Bluegrass Community Health Center (BCHC) and Keith Schneider, president of Square 1, were presented with the Kentucky Board of Education’s (KBE’s) Kelly Award for Business and Education Partnership at its Oct. 11 meeting.

The Kelly Award honors Joseph W. Kelly, who served as a member of KBE from 1989 until 1998 and provided exceptional leadership as its chair for seven years. He was a strong leader in the fundamental early years of implementing Kentucky’s nationally recognized school improvement efforts.

The award is given in the fall of each year to a Kentucky businessperson or business who has partnered with a public school or district to provide outstanding leadership that promotes school improvement and student success.

The criteria for the award includes:

  • Creating or sustaining strategic partnership between a business and school or district that leads to improved student outcomes, including but not limited to, postsecondary success and workforce outcomes; and
  • Significant contribution to a school or a district that leads or will likely lead to increased or improved educational opportunities or improved educational, postsecondary or workforce outcomes for students.

“We are pleased to present this award to recognize the importance of business and education working together,” said Interim Commissioner Robin Kinney. “These partnerships are a tremendous benefit in helping move forward education in the Commonwealth.”

Bluegrass Community Health Center

BCHC answered the call to partner with the Clark County School District to provide a much-needed clinic that has grown from providing just services to students, to include the staff and community.

“Clark County Public School’s collaboration with the Bluegrass Community Health Center is a powerful alliance that nurtures the well-being of students and staff,” said Dustin Howard, Clark County superintendent. “Together, we have created a healthier and happier community, where knowledge and care intertwine to empower individuals to thrive, while also breaking down equity barriers regarding availability. This is a huge win-win for our schools, community, parents and students.”

Two years ago, award nominator Christy Bush, who was the director of public personnel at Clark County, was faced with lagging attendance because sick students were often unable to see a doctor for weeks.

She knew if students could receive medical attention sooner, they could return to school faster. She contacted BCHC in Lexington and the school and health center began to work toward a partnership to remove a barrier for prompt medical care and to provide vaccinations and physicals for their students.

When the partnership was formed, the school system provided building space and the clinic provided equipment and staff.

“We agreed to start small and serve our students first,” said Bush. “Then we added staff. Now we are serving our community, all of Clark County.”

The clinic staff “goes above and beyond” and their services continue to grow. Bush said BCHC wants to provide mobile health care to be more accessible to families. They have requested a school bus to create a full-time mobile unit. The school is looking at a surplus bus to help make that possible.

BCHC also wants to establish longer hours at the clinic to provide immunizations before school and physicals after school. This continued growth in services has created the need for more space, so the school district is looking for a location to allow the clinic to expand.

“Bluegrass Community Health Center has been providing quality, accessible health care for those in the Central Kentucky region for 22 years,” said Dr. Steve Wrightson, chief executive officer of the health center. “Addressing the needs of our community is a critical component of the BCHC mission, and as such, our partnership with the Clark County Public Schools has allowed us to improve vaccination rates, address medical and mental health issues, and provide preventive and acute care services to children and teens, their families, school staff and teachers, and the Clark County community.”

“I cannot truly put into words the partnership that we have collectively achieved in two years,” said Bush. “I cannot think of another organization that has made more of an impact on a school district, students, staff families and the community as they have.”

Keith Schneider

Schneider, who has a passion for “encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs to dream bigger,” supports more than 2,400 students in the Tri-State region by educating and inspiring these emerging entrepreneurs, said his nominator, Beechwood Independent’s Stephanie Layton, business/university liaison and program development.

Beechwood Independent is located in northern Kentucky in Kenton County.

“I am blessed to run an organization that allows me to help Kentucky’s amazing teachers positively impact the lives of our youth,” said Schneider “To be honored with the Kelly Award by the educators who make a difference every day is truly humbling.”

The experience Schneider provides the students at Beechwood Independent Schools is “intense, but it’s real world – exactly what our students need as they prepare for life outside the protected walls of our classroom,” said Layton.

Schneider encourages students to take an idea, research it, grow it and market it, she said. He adapts his level of training to the grade level of the students: teaching start up skills for younger students and encouraging middle school students to learn their individual strengths. Along with Beechwood teacher Michelle Stamper, he coaches older students, specifically those enrolled in the business and entrepreneurship classes, to explore careers in business.

Schneider brings in other local business leaders from the Fort Mitchell and Cincinnati Metropolitan area “to mentor students and provide honest, encouraging feedback that allows the young entrepreneurs to grow their ideas,” Layton said.

Square 1 has launched an entrepreneurial competition in partnership with Thomas More University and U.S. Bank called NEXT High School Final Pitch that allows young entrepreneurs from local schools to present their ideas in a “Shark Tank” style competition. Participation can lead to “lucrative” scholarship offers.

In 2022, three Beechwood students won the competition with an idea based on a pop-up individual tent, landing each student with a full scholarship to Thomas More.

“Walk down the halls of Beechwood Schools with Keith Schneider and you’ll hear students call out his name,” said Layton. “They know him here and they trust him. The best part is that Keith is known and trusted in many other school districts as well. He has created a company with a mission that he lives each day, and his impact on schools and local businesses will be felt for decades to come.”