• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Spark Versailles set for April 8, 9, and 10

MAX LIPPERT, left, and Evan Williams worked on one of the Invisible Cities informational booths for Spark Versailles. The downtown festival comes to Versailles on April 8, 9 and 10. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Students in the community activism class at Woodford County High School are learning the value of working together to make Versailles a better place. By sharing ideas and leadership responsibilities, the WCHS seniors are discovering how they can make a difference in their community. Spark Versailles gives these students an opportunity to build on the successes of last year’s inaugural downtown festival featuring vendors and live entertainment. “We’re trying to spark the economy and bring in more businesses, but also ignite the social life,” said WCHS senior Rebekah Alvey, 17. “Every successful city has something that makes it really unique,” she explained. “And Versailles does have a lot of unique aspects to it.” In addition to promoting downtown Versailles, students in Kyle Fannin’s community activism class are working with students in other classes to share stories about unnoticed communities in Woodford County. The Invisible Cities project has given the students an opportunity to share the rich histories of Huntertown, Millville, Pisgah and other communities. Students in engineering classes are working with Invisible Cities committee members on putting together interactive presentations – videos, photos and artifacts – that will bring awareness to the county’s forgotten communities during Spark Versailles, said WCHS senior Hannah Edelen. “It was challenging to find out something about places that aren’t really there anymore,” said Noah Shuck, also a senior at WCHS. The Invisible Cities project sheds light on these little-known Woodford County communities. “We’ve uncovered a lot more than any of us were expecting about the histories of the people who lived there,” said WCHS senior Noah Ridgeway. The Invisible Cities project also serves as a reminder of how the people who lived in these smaller communities helped shape cities like Versailles. “And that’s really what makes (this project) important,” explained Noah, 17. Daniel Stork, who serves on the community activism’s engineering committee, grew up in New York City and has only lived in Versailles for less than two years. So he’s never been a part of a student-led effort like Spark Versailles, but he understands why students are involved. “They all want to better the community,” said Daniel. As a member of the digital discourse committee, senior Gloria McClain built a website to spread the word about Spark Versailles. She wanted to make sure the site was visually appealing in today’s digital world. Of her Spark Versailles experience, Gloria said, “It’s helped me learn how to manage (my time) and figure out what needs to be done next in this living project.” Overall, Ellen Bullen, who also serves on the digital discourse committee, described Spark Versailles as a student-led effort “to make Versailles an enjoyable atmosphere with things to do … make it more interesting.” In December, Spark Café was an opportunity for community activism students to learn what it takes to run a successful business in downtown Versailles. It was basically a test run before undertaking the larger task of organizing the second annual Spark Versailles, according to Rebekah. And she said Spark Café – a one-day popup business located in a vacant Thoroughbred Square storefront – was such a huge success that it ignited some interest in opening a coffee shop in downtown Versailles. Earlier in the school year, local restaurateur Ouita Michel gave community activism students a broader perspective on how to start a successful business in Versailles. And other guest speakers talked to students about shared real-world experiences with WCHS seniors who will graduate in May. “You’re learning life skills,” said Rebekah, who moved here from Louisville as a freshman. “It really pushes you out of your normal high school comfort zone,” she added. “It’s not like a high school class.” The capstone class encourages WCHS seniors “to put to use the skills they’ve built in social studies,” said Fannin. “I didn’t know what it was going to look like because I wanted (our community activism) class to be a student-run class.” In addition to Spark Versailles, his students are attending community meetings to learn more about a variety of issues facing Versailles and Woodford County. Fannin described those experiences as an opportunity for his students to see that they can play a role in making their community a better place. For more information about the community activism class and Spark Versailles, visit sparkversailles.com.

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