About the team

iLEAD Academy is Kentucky’s first regional Career Academy, serving 30 high school students across five rural counties in its inaugural class. iLEAD’s Rural Tech Project program is creating a more accessible college entry point in a community where 11.6% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher and the median household income is $50,295 — $78,000 less than the average salary of a Cloud Engineer. This program, therefore, will focus on providing students with the support they need to attain in-demand careers.

To accomplish this, iLEAD is eliminating barriers to computer science education. The program aims to give students opportunities to earn college credits and industry certifications, learn fundamentals of AI, participate in work-based learning, and demonstrate competencies to employers. iLEAD plans to create a “Virtual Computer Science Career Academy” that prepares students for fast-growing, high-wage STEM jobs, aligning courses with workforce demand. This virtual career academy is intended to match program design to employer needs by engaging industry stakeholders and identifying career-ready skills to be competitive in the tech workforce.

With Phase 2 underway, teachers at iLEAD are utilizing innovative, virtual teaching strategies to reach students in its five school districts. Students are taking four college courses — Digital Literacy, Computational Thinking, Java, and Python — and will earn four industry certifications. These college courses will lead to completion of a computer science associate degree at Jefferson Community and Technical College and a computer science bachelor’s degree at Northern Kentucky University. The INTERalliance of Greater Cincinnati will provide work-based learning experiences, mentoring, and paid internships. As part of their education, students will have access to a variety of educational activities and resources, including a small learning community, a college-prep sequential curriculum with a career theme, and an advisory board that forges partnerships with employers, higher education institutions, and the community.

How to get in touch:

  • Community Engagement Manager: Heather Ackels
  • Team Lead: Alicia Sells

Learn about iLEAD:

iLEAD in the news: Carroll County iLead Academy team is finalist in national Rural Tech Project competition

Keep up with the team's progress

Fall 2022 semester update

There are 23 students enrolled this year in the iLEAD Virtual Computer Science Career Academy program – five freshmen, six sophomores, six juniors, and six seniors – from five different public school districts. Of the 23, 15 have returned for a second year. The range in grades demonstrates an important asset of the program: students at any grade can enroll in the program. 

This flexibility meets students where they are, and ensures students don’t miss opportunities because they didn’t start in a pathway in a particular grade. Several seniors will be able to take two college credit classes through ILead even though they did not have the opportunity to engage in the pathway earlier in high school. Freshmen will have the opportunity to complete four years in a computer science career pathway and earn up to 18 hours of college credit transferable to completion of Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science. 

ILead has also launched an additional industry certification and curriculum for the 2022-2023 school year. iLEAD’s math, engineering, and computer science teachers participated in two days of training to get certified to teach the NC3 Trane Data Analytics Certification curriculum.  Through this curriculum, students are introduced to the data visualization tool Tableau and learn how to solve problems using data analytics. 

The computer science teacher is integrating this curriculum into his virtual classes. Additionally, the team has integrated short lessons on AGILE project management into their courses. Employers on the CS71 Advisory Board emphasized the need for students to have a fundamental understanding of both data analytics and visualization tools, as well as a fundamental understanding of AGILE — as it is the prevalent project management system in the IT industry. Students are utilizing AGILE processes in their group projects, and the team is developing a rubric to measure their competency.

Winter 2022 semester update

The Kentucky General Assembly passed HB 680 to expand the iLEAD Virtual Computer Science Career Academy throughout Kentucky. This was made possible in large part by involving Ed Massey — Kentucky Senate President ProTem and Kentucky House of Representatives Education Committee Vice-Chair — as a member of the CS71 Advisory Board.

The board, which is made up of influential technology industry employers, public policymakers, and educators, aligned on two priorities for the year: developing a profile of the most highly qualified applicant in tech workforce pipelines, and developing a sequential, dual college-credit career pathway in Data Science. At the most recent meetings, they gathered information about the most important employee characteristics in the tech workforce pipelines. The board then discussed the correlation to high school students’ actual school experience. Lastly, they discussed how these skills might be developed in a virtual learning model. They are now applying for $5.5 million in federal funding.

On the ground, the 16 Virtual Academy students continue to build their skills. The iLEAD School Chapter of the INTERalliance also continued to develop in its second semester. There are 12 students in the chapter, and two iLEAD students were selected to serve on the INTERalliance Leadership Council. This February, the chapter students competed in the INTERalliance’s TechOlympics.


The students’ TechOlympics projects evolved into excellent competency-based learning demonstration projects. One team worked with the local food bank to develop a data management system to track inventory and food distribution. A priority for this summer is to integrate the TechOlympics project expectations into a CBE rubric so iLEAD can assess competencies developed through the project.

Fall 2021 semester update

iLEAD Academy hosted a transformational event for students in November 2021 — a mock interview at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). Major employers in the technology and healthcare industries interviewed more than 90 iLEAD students. iLEAD teachers began working with students at the beginning of the school year to develop their resumes. iLEAD’s partner organization, INTERalliance, conducted a training session for students on interview tips, appropriate dress, how to present their qualifications, and how to interact with professionals in their fields. Students also had the opportunity to tour specific departments on NKU’s campus.

In a follow-up survey, students indicated that the experience had a tremendous impact on their confidence and understanding of what it will take to succeed in the workplace. In a separate employer feedback survey, the participating employers were impressed with the students’ preparation and resumes. It was a successful event, and iLEAD will make it a permanent component of its program.

The iLEAD eSports Club continues to organize competitions and coach Virtual Academy and iLEAD students in the club. Students are organized into teams and preparing for tournament competitions. The Club Sponsor is working with iLEAD staff to plan Game Nights and competitions as part of recruitment for the 2022-2023 school year.

iLEAD has assembled a group of influential technology industry employers, policymakers, and educators to serve on its computer science class (CS71) advisory board. The CS71 advisory board includes the Kentucky Senate President ProTem and Kentucky House of Representatives Education Committee Vice Chair Ed Massey, and employers from companies such as Procter & Gamble, Great American Insurance, and the Cincinnati Reds.