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Rayah Ross: Profile of a Graduate

(Shelbyville, KY) When Rayah Ross served on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, Dr. Neihof, the superintendent of Shelby County Public Schools, talked to the students about the District’s Profile of a Graduate.  Rayah said the piece of the profile that jumped out at her and made her think was the section about being a “lifelong learner”.  To her, being a lifelong learner takes care of the rest of the profile. She said, “I would look at that image and it inspired me to set long term and short term goals.  It is about setting priorities, setting a goal, trying to accomplish it, and knowing that the hard work will pay off in the long run.” 


As a graduate at Martha Layne Collins High School, Rayah is beginning to see the payoff. Her own initiative and motivation has landed her a four year fully paid scholarship to Northern Kentucky University where she plans to major in biological sciences with the hopes of going to grad school to become an orthodontist. Not only does Rayah have a full scholarship, but she will also enter NKU with college credit hours which she received through the Jefferson Community and Technical College. 


At JCTC, Rayah took classes like Intro to Computers, Achieving Academic Success during her Freshman year.  When she inquired about college courses in her sophomore year, she was told she’d have to wait until she was a junior.  This was not the correct answer in her book.  She made an appointment with her high school counselor and advocated for taking courses online.  Because of her advocacy, she was allowed to take an online Medical Terminology class online and finished it two months early.  She continued on the dual - credit route by taking Anatomy and Physiology, Medical Microbio, Biology, Psychology, and Sociology. Because these were dual credit classes, they substituted for some of her high school classes and she was able to go home around noon and work on school work there. Sometimes Rayah commuted to JCTC Shelby Campus (Milestone Academies) and even the Southwest JCTC campus.


At SCPS, students can take two free college courses each semester.  Rayah decided that was not enough and enrolled in English 101 and 102 and College Algebra in the summer.  She paid for her summer courses herself by working two jobs, one at Zaxby’s and one at Pegasus Industries. 


Those 66 hours equal an Associates Degree from Jefferson Community and Technical College, and ironically, she will graduate from JCTC before she receives her high school diploma. 


Ms. Melissa Settles, a counselor at MLCHS said, “Rayah Ross never ceases to amaze me! I’m so encouraged by her and proud of her. I honestly do not know how she spins so many plates and does it all with excellence. Not only is she an extremely high achieving student, but she also maintains a part-time job, a co-op, relationships, and keeps her sanity! She is a gem, a force to be reckoned with, and someone who exceeds every expectation, every time!”

In addition to her challenging course work, Rayah investigated the new Dental Pathway courses at the Shelby County Area Technology Center. Ms. Becky Clark founded the program and wants students to leave with industry certifications that allow them to work in the dental field.  And that, is just what Rayah is doing.  


Rayah has passed her radiology certification and her HIPPA and OSHA certifications.  Ms. Clark’s students then rotate to several dental offices in Shelbyville.  Rayah is working at Integrity Dentistry in Stonecrest as a paid intern. “I go when they need me.”


Carolyn Buckley, the owner of  Integrity Dentistry, appreciates the internships and the program that Ms. Clark has begun.  Ms. Buckley said, “I like to empower women.  I want the young women coming out of this program to know that they can own a business, that their job is important.”


This past Spring, Rayah was honored as one of the many successful seniors at the Metro United Way Black Achievers Program. As an SCPS student, Rayah was one of many students who get up early on Saturday mornings to participate in the Metro United Way Inspire Program.  


“Every 2nd and 4th Saturday from August to April, I got on a bus to head to Louisville to participate in the Chestnut YMCA’s Black Achievers Program. The Metro United Way Inspire grant helped to pave the way for me and other Shelby County students to participate.”


In an interview about that program, Rayah expressed the learning that transpired and the true inspiration she gained from meeting working professionals in the medical field. She said, “It has been impactful on my whole high school career.  I have had experiences that others have not had. Being in this program has opened new horizons for me.  I have gained confidence, built networks with medical professionals, and met young African American teens just like me who want to make a difference in the world.”


When asking people to respond to Rayah’s success, words flowed easily. 

Karen Cottrell, Finance Secretary at MCMS and chaperone of the MUW Inspire Grant said, “I met Rayah a couple of years ago when I was a chaperone for Black Achievers. She was so polite and always smiling. When I would also see her at JCTC, she was so focused on her class work, but always took the time to smile and speak. Rayah talked about her goals and how excited she was to be on track. She is an amazing young lady.”

“Rayah is one of the most mature and reliable students I have ever met. When I met her as an 8th grader I was very impressed. She was a model student. She did not possess the same insecurities that most middle schoolers have at that age. She has always carried herself like someone who knows who she is and what she wants. She will do great things,” said Ms. LaPorsha Jackson, her 8th-grade social studies teacher. 


Ms. Lynn Johnson, Director of the Black Achievers Chestnut Street Family YMCA, YMCA of GREATER LOUISVILLE, said, “Rayah Ross is currently a participant of the YMCA Black Achievers program and her involvement exemplifies leadership and academic achievements which excelled her to be a candidate for the Youth Achiever of the Year. She is very respectful, cheerful, and always possesses a smile to all. I will surely see greatness in her future. The challenges and obstacles that our youth face today requires a strong person to continue to pursue the educational goals of their dreams. No doubt, she will.”

“I've had the privilege of working with many different students as the MUW INSPIRE Grant Coordinator over the past seven years. Rayah Ross is one of our MUW INSPIRE Scholars who exemplifies what we aspire for in our SCPS students- she is a wise student who masters standards, leads by example, and embraces social responsibility. Rayah does this not only in her interactions with staff but in how she presents herself with her peers and in our larger community. Her accomplishments to date are a true testament to her discipline to accomplish her goals and her faithful service towards others. I am excited to see how Rayah continues to develop and define her legacy in our world. She will undoubtedly make us all proud as an SCPS graduate,” said Ms. Ayanna Peake.

Rayah Ross was chosen as the African American Student of Excellence by Jefferson Community and Technical College and received a $20,000 scholarship from Coca Cola. 

We wish Rayah the best of luck as she begins her college career.  She is a lifelong learner and an exemplary student.  We are proud of you!



Rayah was a paid intern at Integrity Dental where she learned about the dental field while working and getting high school credit.