Image by Davis Innovation

March 16, 2020

While we are ironing out details about how best to to serve our families amid the outbreak, we wanted to update you guys on what we were up to on February by posting a PDF version of the March Monthly Minute! Also included is our statement about how we will move forward.

Better Lucky Than Good

November 11, 2019

The Backside Learning Center was excited to join our partners at Louisville Story Program and all of the authors at the Kentucky Derby Museum on November 4th for the launch of “Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track.” BLC Youth Activities Coordinator Merlin Cano and Board Member Carla Grego were featured speakers, and BLC Executive Director Sherry Stanley was also present to autograph copies of the book.  Louisville Story Program Deputy Director Joe Manning and Merlin Cano were also featured on Great Day Live.  Copies of the book are available at the Backside Learning Center for $25, with half of the proceeds benefitting the BLC.

BLC Strategic Planning

April 08, 2019

Last week the Backside Learning Center staff and Board of Directors spent time devoted to the future of the BLC. With the help of the Community Foundation of Louisville, and consultants from Catapult Now LLC, the future vision of the learning center is exciting and bright! Thank you to Jess Amburgey for capturing our planning and hard work. 

English Students Treated to a Trip

June 20, 2018

June saw the completion of our first cycle of English classes! We ended our first six weeks with a potluck dinner where volunteers and students enjoyed a variety of delicious dishes. Certificates were also awarded to student while students with the highest attendance were treated to a trip to either the IMAX Theater or Climb Nulu! 

Volunteer Raises Funds for Student

May 16, 2018

When Antoni arrived at the BLC's Front Runners Program, he struggled to read. It was difficult for him to sound out single-syllable words.

Over the past year and a half, he's been working one-on-one with his Front Runners Program tutor Kevin McKinney where Antoni's reading ability has greatly improved.

Recently Kevin held his own fundraiser on Facebook to raise money for books so Antoni could continue to improve. After a short amount of time Kevin was able to raise $395 for Antoni's own home library!

We are so proud of the progress Antoni has made with his reading and so grateful to have incredible volunteers like Kevin who truly make a difference in the lives of our students!

English Classes Start Back Up

May 14, 2018

Following Derby we kicked off our English Language Program with a strong turnout of students eager to learn! Right now we are offering three levels of classes taught Monday-Wednesday by dedicated volunteers. 

Youth Group at Cinco de Mayo!

May 07, 2018

Even with our Family Program finished for the summer, BLC's youth group is still going strong! Taking advantage of 4th Street Live's Cinco de Mayo festival, they sold vintage Derby posters to raise money for future trips/activities this summer! 

BLC Bike Workshop Begins

April 27, 2018

With the help of incredible volunteers, Proclaim Roofing, and Window Ninjas, the BLC kicked off its Bike Repair Program on April 27th. The first workshop saw a great turnout. Bikes are a common form of transportation on the backside which led the BLC to develop a program to serve the growing population of bike owners in the community.

These monthly workshops will teach backside workers about basic bike repair and maintenance, while providing them with an area to work and borrow tools.

Final Family Program Fiesta

April 26, 2018

Our end-of-year Family Program Party was an amazing way to wrap up our Front Runners and Adult Education programs for the summer! 

The highlights included incredible food and music, a live performance by Kentucky Shakespeare, summer camp registration, certificate presentations to our adult English students, and a book give away! Thank you once again to all of our outstanding volunteers who make this program possible!

Girls' Night Out: Derby & Oaks Prep Party

April 23, 2018

This year's Girls' Night Out: Derby and Oaks Prep Party was hosted by Porcini Restaurant and gave the ladies in attendance a fun environment to kick off the Derby Season. The Handicapping presentation by Donna Brothers, Jennie Rees, and Mike Welsh gave the basics to betting and showed how to decipher racing programs.

Stoneware & Co. Starting Gate Social

April 12, 2018

On April 12th Stoneware & Co. held their first annual Starting Gate Social benefiting the BLC. The event showcased delicious appetizers from Farm to Fork Catering and bourbon tasting from Rabbit Hole Distilling.  

Wall Together Exhibit Reception

April 07, 2018

Friends and families from the backside gathered at the Speed Art Museum for the opening reception of the Wall Together: On The Backside exhibit! The exhibit features photos taken by backside workers and their children, and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of equine workers and their families.


Over several months, participating artists of all ages used Holga cameras to document their lives in Louisville. The resulting photographs capture the daily life of these families, both on and off the racetrack.

Be sure to check out this incredible exhibit which will be on display at the Speed through September!

In Loving Memory of Anahi Mejia

April 05, 2018

Beloved BLC student and hotwalker, Anahi Mejia, passed away on March 7, 2018 at age 29. Originally from Mexico, she excelled in academics and won awards for high achievement in math. She dreamed of being a teacher but due to dangerous conditions in rural areas in her home state of Guerrero, she made the difficult decision to work in the U.S. and temporarily abandon her career plans. Anahi was an active participant in the BLC's English program until she became ill in 2013. Anahi leaves behind several family members who work on the backside, including her parents, two sisters and nieces and nephews who participate in our Family Program. All those that knew Anahi will miss her positive spirit and kind nature.

Congratulations Francisco!

April 05, 2018

Congratulations to BLC student and exercise rider Francisco for becoming a U.S. citizen this month. We are so proud of him and privileged to have played a role in helping him achieve his goal! His wife and hotwalker, Francisca and his daughter Jasmyn (above) participate in the BLC's Family Program.

A special thanks to volunteer Bart Whitehouse for his dedication to helping Francisco master the test questions!

Front Runners go to Frankfort

February 15, 2018

The BLC was proud to accompany Front Runners students to Frankfort for Refugee & Immigrant Day at the Capitol. Our young leaders, together with hundreds of Kentuckians from all over the state, had the opportunity to meet with representatives to discuss the important role that immigrants and refugees play in our state. Sixth grade Front Runners student, Jenesy, delivered letters from hundreds of Louisvillians, including backside workers and family members, to Governor Bevin's office.

Yoga at Front Runners

February 13, 2018

Our Front Runners Program is proud to be partnering with the Kentucky Yoga Initiative to provide monthly yoga classes to our young learners. These classes, which will introduce our students to basic poses, are designed to encourage physical activity, relaxation, and stress relief. 

It's our goal that each class, led by a KYI instructor, will aid in the emotional development of our students by allowing them to build confidence with their movements and find an avenue for personal reflection. 

Nutrition and Cooking Class at the Family Program

February 01, 2018

Front Runners has begun an 8-week nutrition course for adult students led by Omar Miralles-Perez from UK's Nutrition Education Program. The course has introduced students to the basics of nutrition and provide opportunities to prepare healthy meals with fresh ingredients. In addition to learning about nutrition students are being introduced to new foods that are not commonly used in their countries but regularly found here in the States. 

Pre-K and Early Elementary Music Show

January 31, 2018

The pre-K and early primary students enjoyed a live performance from bilingual Louisville based children's band Evan & Vanessa!

It was a great opportunity for our younger learners to experience live music,develop language skills in both English and Spanish, build self-esteem, improve creativity, and dance!

In Memory of Mike Hargrave

January 31, 2018

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a beloved member of the horse racing community. Mike Hargrave passed away January 13th at Jewish Hospital.

Mike was born on October 28, 1948 in Louisville, KY to Dorothy Eskridge Hargrave and the late Jesse Paul Hargrave.  Mike worked nearly 40 years at Churchill Downs as the Director of Stabling over the race track.  He was an avid golfer and a loving husband, father, grandfather, son and brother.  He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and all of us here on the backside.


The Backside Learning Center is especially grateful to those who donated in memory of Mike Hargrave:

Buff and Kim Bradley                                              Tari Hendrickson
Chelsea Coady                                                       Lauren Baldwin
Maria Kabel                                                             Anderson Realty, LLC
Jo Lawson                                                               Laura Stallard
Ashley Bonno                                                          Pamela Blatz-Muff
Brook Ledge, Inc.                                                    Crowders Realty, LLC
Todd Pletcher                                                          William and Joan Hudgens
Craig Fravel                                                            Crowder's Pharmacy
Kerri Hall                                                                 Godolphin, LLC
Loren Hebel                                                            Paul McGee Racing Stables
Deborah Culver                                                       William and Sally Landes
The Keenland Association                                      Marcia Ann and Roger Dall
Jockeys' Guild                                                         Nafzger Family Foundation
Todd Pletcher
Amy Gregory

Celebrating Student Achievements

January 31, 2018

BLC student triumphs are what we work so hard to accomplish at the Learning Center. We are proud to celebrate the achievement of longtime BLC student, Eduviges Atempa who recently received her Kentucky driver's license! 

For many, receiving a driver's license may not be such a feat, but for non-native English speakers there are many hurdles in reaching this goal. Eduviges overcame the language barrier and successfully passed both the written and driving portions of the test! We are happy to have been a resource for Eduviges in helping her both practice her driving and learn the terminology for the test. 

For her a driver's license means independence and the ability to access resources and opportunities for herself and her three young girls. 

Holiday Open House at Jefferson Memorial Forest

December 21, 2017

Front Runners participants took a final holiday trip to Jefferson Memorial Forrest to enjoy their Holiday Open House. Participants took part in the winter scavenger hunt, story time, arts and crafts and hiking, and learned about different animals in the Education Center. It is always a pleasure to provide our participants the opportunity to learn and explore new subjects and enjoy their time with friends and family. 

Celebrating the Holidays at the Front Runners Program

December 15, 2017

We celebrated the holiday season and end of fall session at the Front Runners Program with a potluck and gifts donated by GE Appliances HR team, supporter Kelly Ramsey, Brown-Forman's COPA & Young Professionals groups, and Cathy Shircliff!

We are eternally grateful for the participation of our volunteers and corporate supporters in helping us make this event possible. The generosity and compassion of these individuals helped our families have a happy holiday season! 

Benefit for the Backside Success!

December 07, 2017

On Friday, November 17, the Backside Learning Center hosted its 11th annual fundraiser held at Millionaires Row at Churchill Downs. The event was attended by over 460 guests and raised $86,000 to directly support its programs. Benefit for the Backside included a large silent auction, a photography exhibition created by BLC students, a bourbon raffle and a wine pull.  


This event supports the Learning Center’s mission to provide educational and social services to equine workers and families at Churchill Downs. 


Benefit for the Backside is the most significant fundraiser for the Backside Learning Center. It generates crucial funding that allows the BLC to continue its current and future success. 


The generous support  from the BLC has helped to build a community in the backside of Churchill Downs by enriching the lives of equine workers and their families. 


We are grateful for all of the Benefit for the Backside 2017 event sponsors who helped make the fundraiser a success! 

Students Migrate to other Racetracks for the Winter

December 07, 2017

Our final cycle of English classes took place on November 9. Our students successfully completed another year of classes; we are proud of their dedication and progress in learning English.


With the end of the English program and the racing season at Churchill Downs many students headed south to work at tracks in Florida, Arkansas, and Louisiana for the winter. Our students will be away from friends and families until March of next year. They will all be greatly missed. We wish them safe travels and happy holidays! 

Front Runners Participants Recognized for Academic Success & Strong Character

December 07, 2017

Frontrunners participants are recognized at Frayser Elementary for academic achievement & strong character.


Twice a week families come to our Frontrunners program to empower themselves through their participation in our educational programs. Their resilient and driven spirit propels them forward in their efforts to access resources and provide their children with the opportunity to succeed. Second grader Julian and third grader Antoni, are testament to the hard work that takes place at the program. 


Julian Velasquez, received the Frayser Elementary’s Reaching Outstanding Academic Results award. Antoni Salazar, received Frayser Elementary’s R.O.A.R. (Respect, Ownership, Attitude & Responsibility) award.

ESL Program Celebration

August 31, 2017

This month, our ESL program celebrated the end of Cycle 2 and the beginning of Cycle 3!

Cycle 2 ended with 29 students receiving certificates of completion, and the recognition of 9 exceptional students who completed the cycle with outstanding attendance! 

To reward them for their hard work and dedication, we took a trip to the Big Four Bridge! The trip marked the first visit to the bridge and to Indiana for most of the group! 

We are so proud of our students, and we look forward to celebrating the end of cycle 3 with the same success! 

Bernheim Field Trip

July 31, 2017

Our Family Education Program youth traveled to the Bernheim Forest earlier this month to learn about nature! 

Our younger participants went on an Arts & Exploration tour in the forest and learned how art and nature can come together to create unique works of art. Our teens  explored Bernheim's ecosystems to learn about different plants and animals. 

A big thanks to Bernheim Forest for hosting the BLC Family Education Program and teaching our youth about art and nature!

In-Home Summer Tutoring

July 31, 2017

Throughout the summer, our Family Education Program youth have been paired with tutors who work with them individually to prepare for their upcoming school year. Tutors create educational activities and practice reading based on individual students' needs to set them up for a successful school year. Thanks to these dedicated volunteers our youth participants will be well-equipped for a successful 2017-18 school year!

Conversation Partners

July 24, 2017

We are happy to announce the start of our Conversation Partners Program! The program pairs non-native English- speaking students from the BLC with native English-speaking members of the Louisville community for one-on-one, informal conversation in both Spanish and English. 

It promotes and encourages cultural awareness and understanding, helps BLC students understand and adapt to U.S. culture, strengthens language skills, and provides both participants the opportunity to see the world from another perspective and create new friendships. 

Grant Award: Thoroughbred Charities of America

July 19, 2017

The Backside Learning Center was recently awarded funding by Thoroughbred Charities of America! Funding will be used to enhance our Volunteer Management Program and ensure our students receive quality programming! 


July 10, 2017

Louisville, KY -- July 7th, 2017 -- The Backside Learning Center received a $15,000 grant from The UPS Foundation, which drives global corporate citizenship and philanthropic programs for UPS (NYSE: UPS). 


The grant will be used toward their organizational development efforts. 


The Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of equine workers and their families through educational programs and social services. Current programs include adult English as a Second Language courses, after school academic support for the children of equine workers, bike, art and music workshops and more. This grant is so important because it will ensure that these programs continue to run and that new programs can start successfully. 


Established in 1951 and based in Atlanta, Ga., The UPS Foundation identifies specific areas where its backing clearly impacts social issues. In support of this strategic approach, The UPS Foundation has identified the following focus areas for giving: volunteerism, diversity, community safety and the environment. 


In 2016, UPS and its employees, active and required, invested more than $116.6 million in charitable giving around the world. The UPS Foundation can be found on the web at To get news direct, visit 


"The UPS Foundation is honored to support The Backside Learning Center's efforts to educate the horse workers and their families, " said Eduardo Martinez, President of the UPS Foundation and chief diversity and inclusion officer at UPS. "Our goal is to fund powerful programs that make a lasting difference to the global community." 



Donation from Kentucky Thoroughbread Association

July 10, 2017

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Association collected over $9,000 in donations during the 2017 Kentucky Derby Trainer's Dinner to benefit the Backside Learning Center and The Healing Place. 

ESL Graduation Ceremony

July 10, 2017

BLC English students completed the first cycle of English classes! We had the pleasure of celebrating their achievement this month and recognizing their hard work and growth at our Graduation Ceremony!  

Food Literacy Project Field Trip

July 10, 2017

We traveled to the Food Literacy Project with 34 of our Family Education Program youth participants to learn about farming and nutrition! 

Youth Summer Camps: Gallop Into Summer Reading

July 10, 2017

This June, we welcomed families from all over the track to bring their children to our Gallop into Summer Reading Camp, held at the backside chapel's children's rooms!

Youth Summe Camps: JCPS Camps

July 10, 2017

Our Family Education Program youth participated in JCPS Summer Camps including Literacy & Compassion, Literacy & Photography, and Literacy & Robotics. The learned about creative new topics like yoga, robotics, and photography and continued to strengthen their reading skills!

Youth Summer Camps: Camp Odyssey

July 10, 2017

The Passionate Earth and Spirit Center generously provided 7 BLC participants with full scholarships to attend their Camp Odyssey! Our youth participants spent a week learning about nature and their connection to the natural world. They spent time exploring the outdoors, learning about gardening, cooking, yoga, and different science experiments! Big thanks to the Passionist Earth and Spirits Center for their generosity and providing our students with the opportunity to learn about nature and nutrition! 

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Mailing Address:

3131 S. 2nd St. #389 Louisville, KY 40208

(502) 634-6543

Physical Location:

Gate 5, south of Central Ave. off South 4th St.

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