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Grand Island, NE 68802
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GISH students step up as Academy Ambassadors

Students will have a stronger voice than ever before in the new model at the Academies of Grand Island Senior High.

About 40 students stepped up to the plate to become Academy Ambassadors. The students attended a two-day training on what the ambassador role is and what it would look like at GISH. Each student who accepted the honor of being an ambassador was nominated by teachers. The ambassadors represent each of the six academies at GISH and are advocates for student needs.

“Students have always had a voice, but now we have student ambassadors to represent that,” said Yill Martin, a freshman and ambassador for the Academy of Freshman Exploration.

The training gave ambassadors the ability to discuss what the academy model is and why GISH chose to adopt it, as well as the chance to collaborate with their academy peers on what students desire in their learning process.

Ambassador training for Grand Island Senior High.

Nicole Cobb, a professor at Vanderbilt University, helped lead the training. Cobb said students also learned how to give a quick explanation of the academies, should someone in the community want more information on them. Students also learned how to use social media and blogs to promote their academy in an appropriate way, as well as how to give school tours.

Cobb said ambassadors not only report about the things their fellow students like and are doing well, but they also see what is lacking in school and advocate with school administrators, teachers and counselors for solutions.

Kendall Bartling, a sophomore and ambassador for the Academy of Business and Communication, said he’s excited to be an Academy Ambassador.

“I’ve been a pretty strong proponent of the academy model since it was proposed to us a couple years ago. I really couldn’t wait to learn more about it and share my passion for how good of an idea it is,” Bartling said.

Ambassador training for GISH.

Martin said having Academy Ambassadors will improve the school, the school system and how students learn.

She said many students don’t like to speak up about something they have concerns with, so she’s excited to advocate for them.

“I am excited to get a voice on the things that are going to be happening, and to be able to represent my peers,” Martin said.

Bartling said being an ambassador gives him an opportunity to learn more information on the academies than if he weren’t an ambassador. He said ambassadors offer peer students a friendly face they can talk to.

“It gives members of the academies a friendly face that they know they can talk to, then we can talk to the necessary people about any praise or concern,” Bartling said. “It really gives us an extra way to step up and help out.”

Cobb said the ambassadors reinforce the goal of students having a say in their education.

“One of the most important things for the academy model is student voice and choice,” Cobb said. “We want students to have an integral role in the implementation of academies. They’re the leaders, they’re the face of each academy at the school, and they represent their classmates.”

Ambassador training for GISH.

This year saw the first of the Academies of Grand Island Senior High open, the Academy of Freshman Exploration. Next year, the remaining five academies will open and all students will be enrolled in one. Grade nine students will be in Freshman Exploration; all grade 10 through 12 students will be in one of the other five: Academy of Education, Law & Environment, Academy of Engineering & Technology, Academy of Business & Communication, Academy of Technical Sciences and Academy of Medical Sciences.

For more on the Academies of Grand Island Senior High, visit

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