Program to attract grads to Kentucky

Rowan Claypool ’80 said he hopes his son John — today a lively redheaded third grader in Louisville, Ky. — will someday be taught by Yale graduates.

Claypool is in the early stages of developing a new program — Grads in the Bluegrass — which he said would give Yale students “an organized way to say ‘yes’ to jobs in Louisville.” The program would give them leadership opportunities, and give public schools in the Greater Louisville area high-caliber Yale teachers.

Claypool said this is a much more complex extension of his successful summer program, Bulldogs in the Bluegrass, which has brought around 40 Yale interns to his hometown for each of the past three years.

While he has not completed plans for his newest venture, Claypool — who will meet with interested students at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in SSS 414 — said he is “working like a dog” to pull everything together.

Louisville native Jeff Brenzel, the director of the Association of Yale Alumni, said he has confidence in the program’s success if Claypool gives it as much energy as he did Bulldogs in the Bluegrass.

Brenzel said Claypool is “a real path-breaker” who built and made work a program that Brenzel said had every reason to fail.

“He’s for real,” Brenzel said. “[Bulldogs in the Bluegrass] is the most astonishing individual effort by an alum that I’ve seen.”

Claypool said he envisions this pilot program — sponsored by the Yale Club of Kentucky — as one that would match 10 to 15 Yale graduates with teaching positions in public schools in Jefferson and Shelby counties, which are in the Greater Louisville area.

If successful, Claypool said the program will expand to include graduates from other top tier universities.

“All I want is some students with a sincere interest in the role of teacher,” Claypool said.

No experience is necessary; the program will provide training.

Claypool said the Yale graduates would pick between a yearlong master’s degree in teaching or an alternative certification program. He said the local school districts would cover all of the $5,000 alternative certification fee and half of the $14,000 for a master’s degree.

The program is currently engaged in fund raising to bring the cost to participants down further, Claypool said.

Claypool said his program — which will likely have a commitment of three years — is more involved than others which merely match recent graduates with teaching positions.

“We want to do more than that,” said Claypool, who described Grads in the Bluegrass as a strengthened Teach for America program.

Grads in the Bluegrass would be more than just a job, he said.

“It’s all about being immersed and integrated into the Louisville community,” Claypool said. “[Yale graduates] will quickly be on a first-name basis with the leaders of the community, and they will be expected to step up and be active participants and leaders at a young age.”

The program will provide a comprehensive six-month introduction to the city, he said.

Jocelyn Smith ’02, a Bulldogs in the Bluegrass participant, said she is considering Grads in the Bluegrass, but only as a backup to graduate school.

But Smith said she would encourage her friends to look into the program because she loved her summer in Kentucky and that she would even consider working and living there in the future.

Claypool said he expects nothing more from former Bulldogs — like Smith — than to be “enthusiastic cheerleaders” for the program.

“I just hope 10 folks will give me a chance,” he said.

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