GEAR UP Students Go To San Francisco

Two students attended the 2015 NCCEP/GEAR UP Youth Congress Event

Ellie and Jordan Tight CroppedSan Francisco, CA. – The National Council for Community and Education (NCCEP) and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) hosted the 2015 Youth Congress Event last month. GEAR UP students Ellie Tarter and Jordan Cottrell attended the four-day event. Tarter and Cottrell participate in the Promise Appalachia Leadership in Service, or PALS, program.

The Youth Congress was sponsored by Texas Instruments and featured curriculum provided by Seeds Training. According to, “The Youth Congress is a youth leadership program that implements a student-focused curriculum, blending leadership development with life skills and strategies for increased learning. Offered during the NCCEP/GEAR UP Annual Conference each July, GEAR UP students who participate in the Youth Congress have the opportunity to experience a professional conference while interacting and learning with other students from around the country.”

The students selected to participate represented a wide variety of diverse urban and rural backgrounds. Participants traveled from 16 states and Pohnpei for the event.

“There are many things that I will take away from this experience. One being the obvious friendships of people from many different states,” Tarter said, “but the other is showing people back in my state of Kentucky that it is okay to have a different opinion than anybody else, but to stand firm in what you believe in.”

GroupAccording to, the curriculum covered over the four-day event included the fear of image, integrity, keys to motivation, storytelling, and brain capacity.

“I kind of thought that I might reach this plateau—that I’d reach this maximum potential that I could never break,” Cottrell said, “If I create and try new things, then it’s making more wires in my brain, so that this plateau just constantly just goes up and up and up. It never stops, so it’s an unreachable plateau that maximizes my own potential.”

To learn more about the Youth Congress and NCCEP, visit


Arts-based Community Development Investment for Promise Zone

The Kentucky Promise Zone one of 69 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town projects selected nationwide


BEREA, Ky. – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 69 Our Town awards totaling almost $5 million through the Our Town program’s fifth year of funding.  Partners for Education at Berea College is one of those recommended organizations and will receive $100,000 to preserve the arts and cultural heritage of Appalachia by cataloguing arts and artists in the Kentucky Promise Zone. The NEA received 275 applications for Our Town this year and will make grants ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.

The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. Since the program’s inception in 2011 and including these projects, the NEA will have awarded 325 Our Town grants totaling almost $26 million in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

“Creative Asset Mapping in the Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone,” brings together seven county governments, Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, and Whitley, and Berea College, a non-profit with significant arts experience. The project will map Promise Zone arts and artists based on research and best practices gained from other rural communities. Within the Promise Zone, the arts are a key opportunity for economic diversification. Creative Asset Mapping is the first step in the Promise Zone exploration of the arts as a strategy for positively impacting the livability within the Promise Zone.

Other partners include the Kentucky Arts Council, Arts Incubator of the Rockies (AIR), and the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, the Promise Zone lead agent.

“Creative Asset Mapping in the Southeastern Kentucky Promise Zone demonstrates the best in creative community development and the work will have a valuable impact on its community,” said Chairman Chu. “Through Our Town funding, arts organizations continue to spark vitality that support neighborhoods and public spaces, enhancing a sense of place for residents and visitors alike.”

Donna Morgan, director of Brushy Fork Institute at Berea College, says the selection of the Kentucky Promise Zone can both help preserve arts and culture in Appalachia and provide an avenue for community development. “Creative and arts businesses can form an important sector in our region’s economy, whether it be through traditional arts and crafts, design, digital media, culinary arts, or other fields that employ a creative workforce,” she said. “We are so pleased to be able to begin the planning of this project, and we are even more excited to start the work of putting our artists and their creativity on the map.”

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at Project descriptions, grants listed by state and by project type, and resources are available as well. The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources.

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