Editor’s Note: This is the first  in a series of columns highlighting the work being done across Kentucky by members of Local Laboratories of Learning (L3s). The L3s are part of the Kentucky Department of Education’s United We Learn Initiative, which is how Kentucky educators, families and community leaders will use innovation and meaningful student experience to prepare students for the future.

Picture of a smiling man wearing a suit.

Mike Hesketh

In April of 2021, I was invited to be co-leader of the Shelby County Local Laboratory of Learning (L3) team.  As a community member and business leader who has participated in several Shelby County school initiative over the past 6 years, I welcomed the invitation.

I learned that the Shelby County Board of Education and Superintendent Sally Sugg had committed our district to this project, which focuses on creating a strong assessment and accountability system for all students in Kentucky based upon competencies like those included in our Profile of a Graduate – critical thinking, effective communication, lifelong learning, global citizenship, inspired innovation and responsible collaboration.

Many business partners in the community participated in the development of this Profile of a Graduate and the district’s multi-year strategic plan  We also participate in work-based learning by providing opportunities for students to explore and/or actively participate (work) in career positions that interest them, which students have been able to do since 2017. 

In Shelby County, we have seen firsthand examples of students who excel in ways that the current statewide assessment (testing) system does not recognize. We are eager to support the creation of an improved and more inclusive approach.

Our L3 is working on creating and testing a model that gives students learning and growth opportunities – in both our schools and our community – that supplement their formal education with broader learning and personal development that is within their unique interests and abilities. The work students do and the knowledge/experience they gain will be assessed by an objective process so we can see and recognize their accomplishments. 

With our schools as the hub of community engagement and full participation by students, parents, teachers and our broader community, we will prioritize building networks of trusting relationships and partnerships that share in responsibility for each students’ growth. Our prototype begins with the entire community embracing the six elements of the Profile of a Graduate as qualities/capabilities we all aspire to master. With everyone engaged, we anticipate advancing an environment of active engagement where our community, families and students all participate in mutually beneficial activities and projects that provide our students with experiences where they learn and demonstrate these valuable attributes of a graduate.

My hope for our community is that we build a better understanding and trust in a shared belief of what our student development and education should include and how it will be recognized and valued.  I hope we are successful with a prototype that demonstrates all students can find and pursue a path that leads them to a successful and prosperous life.

Through the work of Shelby County’s L3, I believe our community will be that much better as all pursue and demonstrate mastery of the Profile of a Graduate six elements, and our students are recognized for their unique individual interests, capabilities and full achievements.


Mike Hesketh is a Shelby County business owner and serves as the community co-leader on Shelby County’s Local Laboratory of Learning. He also serves as the Shelby County representative to the KentuckianaWorks regional workforce board.