Providing students with access to quality educational opportunities is essential to improving the quality of life in southern and eastern Kentucky. In today’s modern world, we must ensure that students not only have the fundamental building blocks of an education – such as reading, writing and arithmetic – but that they also have the technological skills to compete for the jobs of the future. Over the years, I have worked hard to provide better educational opportunities for our youth. Below are some organizations that strive to meet that goal.
The Center for Rural Development in Somerset is home to a host of programs and organizations that seek to foster educational opportunities for youth and adults throughout the region. CenterNET2 is an interactive videoconferencing network that is being used to connect schools and educators throughout Kentucky, creating a statewide virtual education community. Many Kentucky students are using this high tech system to access critical content – such as calculus, science and language courses – that would otherwise be out of their reach.
The Rogers Scholars Program, which launched in 1998, provides enhanced educational opportunities for students throughout the Fifth Congressional District. The program offers an intensive one week summer session for rising high school juniors that emphasizes technological skills development and fosters an entrepreneurial spirit, leadership and commitment to rural Kentucky. Similarly, the Rogers Explorers program focuses on math and science skills for rising ninth graders. Each of these programs opens doors to learning for our region’s youth, promotes higher education achievement, and gives students a great summer experience that they will keep with them for their entire lives.
Additionally, I initiated Forward in the Fifth (FIF), an organization founded in 1986 that provides and expands educational opportunities so that members of our community may live full and productive lives. Uniting educators, students, parents and the business community, FIF has a reputation for improving the educational successes of individuals in southern and eastern Kentucky. FIF has a proven track record for improving literacy, school attendance, career exploration, parental engagement and so much more.
Through the Eastern Kentucky PRIDE program, students are helping clean up our region’s land and waterways and are also learning to take care of the environment. Schools, teachers, and students in southern and eastern Kentucky are partnering with PRIDE to measure water quality at lakes, rivers, and streams near their schools and in their communities. They are also participating in fun-filled service projects and unique environmental classroom activities.
To break the devastating cycle of drug abuse that afflicts many of our young people, Operation UNITE is working with students and schools on education and mentoring programs. UNITE funds substance abuse counselors who provide intervention services for students in schools throughout our region who may be struggling with substance abuse. UNITE has also partnered with the Future Fisherman Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources to offer the Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs program, which promotes angling abilities, positive life skills, aquatic education and stewardship. UK basketball star Jeff Sheppard also collaborates with UNITE’s Shoot Hoops Not Drugs program, which shows youth that there are healthy alternatives to drug abuse.
Finally, in today’s economy, higher education is often a necessary component to being competitive and successful. Throughout southern and eastern Kentucky, several colleges and universities have developed outstanding regional and national reputations, and are opening the doors of the world to students of all ages in Appalachia. From Morehead State University’s Space Science students putting satellites into orbit, to the University of Pikeville’s newly minted osteopathic doctors, southern and eastern Kentuckians are receiving quality education for jobs that are in demand. Furthermore, Alice Lloyd College, University of the Cumberlands, Union College, and the twenty Kentucky Community and Technical College System campuses in the Fifth District are churning out educated workers, eager and ready for today’s marketplace. I am proud of everyone in our region who has taken advantage of the many educational opportunities available in our backyard.