NEW PALESTINE — It’s called “Grow Your Own” — a support program at New Palestine High School (NPHS) for senior students who have made plans to go into the field of education.

It’s all part of a plan to encourage those who want to go into the teaching field to perhaps one day come back and be a teacher in the New Palestine Community School District after earning a teaching degree.

Late last week, 17 senior girls along with their teacher of inspiration and their parents gathered in the NPHS gym for a ceremony to celebrate the plans ahead. Each student was given a certificate and three promises, allowing for an opportunity to student-teach in the district, a letter of recommendation and, once they get their degree, a job interview.

The “Grow Your Own” support initiative has been going on for three years now. District officials started celebrating with seven seniors in 2022 who wanted to go into education. They have more than doubled the number with this year’s class having 17 seniors who say they are going to be educators.

Some of the 17 senior girls in the “Grow Your Own” NPHS Class of 2024 will graduate with numerous college credits thanks to dual-credit classes and partnerships with the University of Indy and Vincennes. It means some of the seniors could be back teaching in the district in just a few short years.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always dreamed of being a teacher, and this year I actually got to cadet teach,” NPHS senior Kyleigh Watkins said. “I worked with kids four times a week and just being with them made me realize this is what I want to do.”

Kyleigh is graduating with 67 college credits with the hope of getting hired as a teacher in the district in just a few years.

“I will graduate college in two years and be ready to teach,” she said.

Nicholas Mitchaner, who is currently an assistant principal at NPHS but will head to the administration building as soon as the school year is over, oversees the opportunity for the seniors. He noted students who are interested in going into education have numerous chances while in high school to delve into teaching, such as educational profession opportunities, or taking part in their early childhood pathway programming.

“It’s an awesome learning opportunity,” Mitchaner said. “We have lots of education paths.”

The ceremony was sort of the final piece of the “Grow Your Own,” initiative, Mitchaner noted. He went on to add how each year it keeps getting larger with more and more students wanting to get into education.

“We want our own kids to come back and teach in our district someday,” Mitchaner said. “We have a lot of current staff who does, just a ton of people, and that’s the whole point of this program. We want our own kids to come back.”

The idea behind “Grow Your Own” is to elevate the teaching profession and remind students education, helping kids is a noble career.

Senior Moriah Smith also has plans to go into education as a teaching assistant. She was born with Down syndrome but hasn’t let that stop her from following her dreams of being a part of the classroom as a professional educator.

“I want to teach elementary education,” Moriah said. “This means a lot to me because I do want to be a teacher, and I love teaching children because I can teach them about growth.”

Moriah’s mother, Lisa Smith, noted her daughter will attend a special higher education program at Northern Kentucky University and she will someday see her daughter’s dream of teaching come true.

“She’ll have an alternate diploma and will be able to earn a certificate of completion and become a teachers aide after three years in college,” Lisa Smith said. “She’s very capable.”

The names of the seniors who received the certificates in addition to Moriah Smith and Kyleigh Watkins are Hannah Allen, Isabella Dhaenens, Charlie Hall, Macey Henderson, Rory Hubbard, Ehvah Irwin, Rebecca Johnson, Kenzie Kleiman, Amelia Ladd, Sullivan Leavell, Audrey McAtee, Vivian Miller, Aley Sharp and Anna Tippit.