With a glitzed-up Truman Memorial Building gymnasium, complete with red carpet, formal attire, movie soundtracks played during dinner and the winners' walk up to the stage, the Independence School District put on its own version of the Oscars.

Students, teachers and guests had a chance to stop at a photo screen for a snapshot, and the emcee – in this case, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Hap Graff – even played the part by making corny jokes at Thursday evening’s inaugural ISD Academy Awards.

The district aimed to honor the early success of its high school career academies, which are now in their fourth year. They honored business partner organizations and individuals and had a nominee from each of the three high schools for student of the year in each of the academies.

“It's about excellent students getting caught doing good things,” Graff said.

Sheri Wheaton from the Business Academy, who guided the student effort for the “All Things Independence” retail store, was named Academy Teacher of the Year from six nominees.

Graff and ISD Superintendent Dale Herl each praised the teachers who took the leap to learn a education model – after years of prior education and teaching, in many cases – and help the students along various career-readiness paths.

“Bless their hearts,” Graff said. “They saw the vision and saw the future.”

Graff said when he became the Chamber's CEO, involvement with the academies was a welcome bonus to the job. After the high points in family life, one of the biggest days of his life, he said, came last September during the district 150-year celebration, when the student-run retail store “All Things Independence” opened on the Square.

“That was an historic day for a lot of reasons,” he said. “It's such a transition for a school district to be running a retail store.”

Academy student of the year winners included:

• Academies Freshman: Hannah Noel, William Chrisman

• Arts & Education: Braden James, sophomore, Truman

• Business: Shelby Fordham, junior, Truman

• Industrial Technology: Casey Jones, senior, William Chrisman

• Public Service: Anthony Krantz, senior, Van Horn

• STEM: Lauren Hopkins, senior, Van Horn

Business Engagement Awards went to: MCC-Business & Technology, Independence fire and police departments, Centerpoint Medical Center, Burns & McDonnell, Hollis & Miller and TMC Lakewood. Founder Awards went to: Bayer Crop Science, Hollis & Miller and Orbital ATK. Justin Durham of Hollis & Miller was named Business Partner of the Year.


To view a photo gallery of Thursday’s winners, visit: www.examiner.net