Making a Rural IMPACT

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Friday, September 25, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Deputy Secretary Mary Wakefield announced 10 sites, including Knox County, to participate in the “Rural Integration Models for Parents and Children to Thrive” (Rural IMPACT) technical demonstration.

Rural IMPACT helps communities adopt a two-generation approach to address the needs of both vulnerable children and their parents with the goal of increasing parents’ employment and education and improving the health and well-being of their children and families. The Rural IMPACT demonstration will help communities adopt a comprehensive, whole-family framework for addressing child poverty through facilitating physical co-location of services, universal “no wrong door” intake, referral networks, shared measurement systems, and use of technology to deliver services.

As a recipient of the Rural IMPACT site demonstration designation, the Knox County Rural IMPACT project will investigate the viability of building a scholar house on a local college campus. The scholar house would house teenage parents who have graduated high school and their young children. As scholar house residents, the parents would have access to high-quality childcare, family health care services, college courses, part-time work, academic support services and mentoring, as well as housing, thus bringing a host of family services under one roof.

As a site demonstration project, there is no funding attached to this designation; however, technical assistance and a dedicated VISTA will be provided during this one-year project of planning and implementation. If the project is deemed viable, the partners would seek funding to build the scholar house.

Partners for the Knox County Rural IMPACT demonstration project include:

  • Kentucky Career Center, Corbin
  • Corbin Area Technology Center
  • Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
  • Cumberland River Behavioral Health
  • Eastern Kentucky University Corbin Regional Campus
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • KCEOC Community Action Partnership
  • Knox County Chamber of Commerce
  • Knox County Schools
  • Knox County Health Department
  • Union College
  • Knox County Adult Education
  • Knox County Community Education
  • Education Pays Program
  • Fair Housing and Equity Assessment
  • Save the Children

Communities designated to participate in the Rural IMPACT demonstration include:

  • Blanding (UT), The San Juan Foundation (Serving San Juan County, UT)
  • Blytheville (AR), Mississippi County, Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission, Inc. (Serving Mississippi County, AR)
  • Hillsboro (OH), Highland County Community Action Organization, Inc. (Serving Highland County, OH)
  • Hugo (OK), Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc. (Serving Choctaw, McCurtain and Pushmataha Counties)
  • Jackson (MS), Friends of Children of Mississippi, Inc. (Serving Issaquena, Sharkey and Humphreys Counties, MS)
  • Machias (ME), Community Caring Collaborative (Serving Washington County, ME)
  • Marshalltown (IA), Mid‐Iowa Community Action, Inc. (Serving Marshalltown, IA)
  • Oakland (MD), Garrett County Community Action Committee and the Allegany Human Resources Commission (Serving Garrett and Allegany Counties, MD)
  • White Earth (MN), White Earth Reservation Tribal Council (Serving Mahnomen County and portions of Clearwater and Becker Counties)

To learn more about Rural IMPACT, go www.usda.gov.

Kentucky Students #ReachHigher in Washington D.C.

Kat Michelle is a first year student at Berea College and graduate of Pulaski County High School in Somerset.

IMAG0259I am so honored to have come on this trip. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities I have. Hearing Mrs. Obama talk about her background and hearing her tell her story really inspired me. I mean, if she could become the First Lady, imagine what I could do! Seeing the group of young people was phenomenal, and hearing everyone’s personal stories was amazing. We all came from different places. We are all different in many ways. However, we have things in common: we are ambitious and determined! We have all worked our hardest to overcome many obstacles of all kinds, and we made it. We were selected to go to the White House! It proves that we are worth so much more than others have said. Everyone who has ever put us down was proven wrong today. We are able, and we will #ReachHigher!


Samantha Coffman is a first year student at the University of Kentucky and graduate of Southwestern High School in Somerset.

There are so many things I could say about my experience. It was definitely life changing, eye opening, and network creating. I got the chance to meet with my peers from all over the country that came from the most incredible backgrounds. It was almost overwhelming to hear the stories of their pasts and how they came to be what we all are today—high school grads and college freshmen.IMAG0216

Upon entering the White House, I was already intrigued by the architecture, the lovely paintings, and historical memorabilia all around. Sitting in the East Room, I listened to some amazing people tell their stories and give us tips to help us become all we can. Then, the moment when all the fatigue from the flight and my lack of sleep vanished when I heard the announcement “Now welcoming, First Lady, Michelle Obama,” she came into the room behind me, and I was definitely star struck. Her speech was inspiring, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The rest of the day was filled with discussion and information that I truly admired and took in with an optimistic approach.

Later in the day, we were told we’d get to see a famous rapper preform for us. To our surprise, the president of the United States walked onto the stage and greeted us with a speech. The adrenaline in the room was almost intoxicating! It was such an amazing time for my peers and me. I will never forget this experience. I know I’ll take the knowledge I’ve learned today and apply it to my life and the lives of others as well.

Me, My Son, and Stress


BabyMalSixteen years ago, I left the hospital with a brand new baby boy. I remember thinking, as my husband was trying to fit the car seat into the car, “Seriously? They are going to just let us take him home without teaching us all the things we need to be doing to ensure he is safe and happy?”  As someone who had spent many years sitting in a classroom being taught and prepared for a career, it was mind-blowing that there was so little teaching and preparation for the most important job ever.

Sixteen years later, there are parenting moments when I’m just as unsure and scared as I was then. In many ways, I find parenting a high-schooler more stressful than parenting that infant. 


When it comes to high school, stress is ever-present. I just finished my sophomore year, and I can remember kids in my AP World History class breaking down and crying before the test, afraid of failing. These kids were in a bad place mentally due to the work that all their classes had put on them. Whether it was studying for End of Course exams, Finals, or the AP Exam, kids had plenty on their plate, and couldn’t handle it all.

I dealt with stress a lot this past year. Having a full honors class load, Jazz Band, and AP World History didn’t leave a lot of free time. I even had to get a tutor during the school year for the first time in my life. I spent some of my time just lying in bed thinking about all the things I had to do in such a little time.


It is a continual struggle to figure out what I need to do to ensure that the young man in my care is safe and happy. Parenting a sixteen-year-old is a constant balancing act—how much assistance is just enough, how much is too much, when do I need to ensure his success and when do I need to let him fail?


Malcolm_With_MicI feel like there are a few ways that parents can help with their child’s stress. My parents helped me by discussing my classes with me, getting me a tutor, and being supportive of me at all times. Without these things I feel like I wouldn’t have had the success through the past year of high school that I did. Parents need to understand that even though their high school students are young adults, they alone can’t exactly handle everything required.

Whether it was helping me organize my papers, going over every day’s work with me, or just helping me with my schoolwork, my parents always found the time to support me, and help me through the stress I was experiencing.


During this past year, Malcolm, my husband, and I found our balance through talking and shared decision-making. We determined which decisions Malcolm would make with our input and which we as the parents would make with his input.  It was wonderful to watch Malcolm succeed with his choices. It was tough for me to give up authority and see Malcolm make decisions that I thought weren’t the wisest. But, I was proud to see his growth when he dealt with the consequences of the choices that he made.


In conclusion I would like to say that the number one way that parents can help their child through stress is by being there for them. By supporting them and offering help, you can make high school as a whole lot easier for your kids.

Corporation for National & Community Service CEO Visits Berea


Corporation for National and Community Service Chief Executive Officer Wendy Spencer visited Partners for Education at Berea College Wednesday to learn first-hand how CNCS programs are working to help Appalachian Kentucky youth succeed in school. Representatives from AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA programs administered by Berea College introduced themselves to Spencer and talked about how the programs serve their communities. Representatives from partnering organizations, like Save the Children, Grow Appalachia, and Knox, Leslie, and Madison County Schools also spoke with Spencer about the difference the programs are making in thousands of lives.

05_Group_ShotWhen she had heard from everyone, Spencer told attendees about a recent CNCS study that found that service and volunteering can have on employment, that job applicants who have service or volunteering experiences are significantly more like to find a job after being out of work, 55% more likely in rural areas. “There is a direct correlation now that we can prove scientifically, that it’s going to help you personally,” she said. “That’s not to mention that it would mean more hands and hearts in our communities helping people in need.”

Spencer closed by thanking everyone for their comments and for doing the work they do. “I’m really inspired today to hear the connection that you’ve applied, for national service and volunteerism, to your own communities and how you’re lifting it up.”

For more information about CNCS, visit them here. To see more photos from the visit, check out the image gallery here.

Our First College Visit


My first college visit was to Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.  First off, I’d like to say that New Orleans is a beautiful city filled with culture, creativity and excitement.  Tulane is located in Uptown New Orleans and is a beautiful, modern campus.


Over the last 20 years, I’ve been on too many college visits to count.  Last week was my first visit wearing my “parent hat.”  Let’s just say that I need to follow some of the advice that I’ve been giving parents.

First–be on time. Our visit was at 9:30 a.m. and I really miscalculated the travel time.  We arrived at 10:30 as the information session was ending.  Luckily, we were able to slip in and join up for the walking tour. And, luckily my son was understanding and didn’t get stressed out by my poor planning.


From my college visit at Tulane I learned that it is important to be on time to your college visit.  Unfortunately due to a misconception about the trolley system in New Orleans we arrived late for the visit. I was unable to choose a tour guide that corresponded with my major interest. We ended up with a STEM focused tour guide who showed us dorms and laboratories specifically suited for STEM majors. But, that was OK.  It didn’t really stop the college visit from being productive.


Second–eat before the tour and take snacks.  It was a hot day and we had 1 ½ hours of walking. I should have put a couple of bottles of water in our bag.  And, we should have had breakfast before heading out (what was I thinking!).  Luckily I did find one granola bar in my bag for Malcolm. And, a note – the vending machines you see around campus will require exact change or a campus identification card.


I was one of the youngest people on the college tour. Most of the people were juniors and seniors in High School and one had already been accepted to the school. However, I feel that beginning to find college earlier can definitely be more beneficial.


Third, it is OK if your child wants to walk alone.  I read Malcolm’s body language and hung back separate from him. I could tell he wanted to be on his own. I had a couple of questions for the guide and, luckily, I shared these with Malcolm at the break. One we asked the guide during the break.  The other Malcolm wasn’t comfortable with me asking so I decided to ask it in a follow-up email.


In conclusion, I can say that I had a very productive first college tour. Tulane is definitely on my list of colleges to visit and I would like to go back for another visit.

A Change in Perspective: From College Access Professional to Parent

I’ve spent much of my work life thinking about college access and success, designing programs that provide parents and students opportunities to prepare for college, explore college options and make informed choices.  As Malcolm reaches the end of his sophomore year in high school, I find myself in a different place. I’m now the parent of a student who needs to be thinking about college, preparing for college and selecting a college.

My Dad always said that “book learning will only get you so far in life.” Once again I recognize that he was right.  All my reading and research in the field of college access hasn’t prepared me for this journey with Malcolm.

As we return from his first college visit, I realize that there is a lot of real-life learning in store for us.  I’ve asked Malcolm to join me in chronicling this journey via this blog.  OK, I didn’t really “ask” him, but let’s say that he’s agreed to participate.

Over the next months and even years, we will use this blog to share our experiences as Malcolm thinks about and plans for college.  We may be joined at times by our other family members who will be with us on this journey.

The college planning experience is unique for each family, Malcolm and I hope that our insights and personal journey will be helpful.

HealthCorps University Training

On March 19th and 20th, teams from Upward Bound Math and Science, Jackson, Knox, Leslie, and Madison Counties received training and curriculum content from HealthCorps University on how to implement healthy initiatives in their schools and programs.

For more information on HealthCorps University, visit:  http://www.healthcorps.org/what-we-do/healthcorps-university/

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2014 in Pictures

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GEAR UP Mentor Spotlight

Morgan Bergren (UK Volleyball mentor) with Chloe Cornwell (Owsley Co. mentee)LEXINGTON, KY—Chloe Cornwell, an 8th grader from Owsley County, attended a University of Kentucky women’s volleyball match with her family on November 7 to watch her GEAR UP mentor Morgan Bergren play against Georgia. Chloe and Morgan celebrated the Wildcats’ 3-0 victory together after the game.

Morgan, a setter for the Wildcats, was recently named Southeastern Conference player of the week for her efforts against Alabama and Texas A&M. She has made more than 2000 assists during her time at the University of Kentucky, which puts her into the top 10 in the program’s history. Her impressive contributions make her a vital member of her team. She is also an integral part of the GEAR UP program. Her efforts as a volunteer mentor help to inspire and promote a college-going culture.

In addition to mentoring, GEAR UP provides in-school tutoring, summer programs, career exploration, test preparation, college and career site visits, and parent programs. To learn more about GEAR UP at Berea College, visit: http://partners.berea.edu/gear-up/.


Educational Talent Search Alumna Wins

LEXINGTON, KY—Chioma Amaechi, an Educational Talent Search alumna from South Laurel High School, joined 45 other students to represent Berea College at the 100th annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science. Amaechi won 1st place of the oral competition in the category of Science Education. Seventeen other students from Berea College joined Amaechi in winning honors.

Agricultural Sciences

Leah Peng – 1st Place Poster Competition

Cellular and Molecular Biology

Alyssa Hubbard –3rd Place Oral Competition

Chemistry: Analytical/Physical

Pyae Phyo –1st Place Oral Competition

Kyaw Hpone Myint – 3rd Place Poster Competition

Chemistry: Organic/Inorganic

Michael McCann – 2nd Place Oral Competition

Andrew Norris – 1st Place Poster Competition

Anthony Boateng – 2nd Place Poster Competition

Ecology and Environmental Science

Michon Martin –1st Place Oral Competition

Michael Oxendine – 2nd Place Oral Competition

Health Sciences

Sheniqua Austin –3rd Place Poster Competition

Physiology and Biochemistry

Chi Peng –2nd Place Oral Competition


Sophia Al-Maamary – 1st Place Poster Competition

Science Education

Kaitlyn Reasoner –1st Place Poster Competition

Willie Gosnell – 2nd Place Poster Competition

Chioma Amaechi – 1st Place Oral Competition

Yungpeng Xia – 2nd Place Oral Competition


Hanna Abe & Kidist Ashami –2nd Place Poster Competition

Lauren Ballou –2nd Place Oral Competition

The Kentucky Academy of Science seeks to encourage scientific research, to promote the diffusion of scientific knowledge, and to unify the scientific interests of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. To learn more about the academy visit: http://kyacademyofscience.net.

Partner Schools Gather to Launch New GEAR UP Program

01_GroupBEREA, KY—Superintendents and representatives from 14 school districts met with Partners for Education staff and Berea College President Dr. Lyle Roelofs at historic Boone Tavern today to celebrate the launch of the newest GEAR UP program at Berea College. The recently awarded grant expands Partners for Education’s service region to include Barbourville Independent, Casey County, Clinton County, Cumberland County, East Bernstadt Independent, Harlan County, Jenkins Independent, Letcher County, Lincoln County, McCreary, Middlesboro Independent, Somerset Independent, Wayne County, and Whitley County school districts.

03_Lyle_DreamaRoelofs provided an overview of Berea College’s history and mission, highlighting the institution’s commit to the region. “I’m looking forward to hearing about the positive effect GEAR UP will have in your district,” Roelofs said. “The students and families that benefit by our work will have a long term impact: every time you change the opportunities of one student, you are affecting an entire family. We have many cases of that.  Any of that that happens is great news for Kentucky, great news for the region, for our 8th commitment to Appalachia, and for that, we’re very proud to collaborate with you through the work of our fine Partners staff.”

02_Dreama_LyleDreama Gentry, executive director of Partners for Education, said she was excited to collaborate with the 14 school districts. “We are happy to do this work in these new counties and in these new schools,” she said. “I was once a student from the region, so I am just like these Appalachian youth, and we want to see all Appalachian youth succeed in school.”

Partners for Education will receive $5.5 million annually for the next 7 years from the new GEAR UP grant. The funds enable Partners for Education and their extensive network of strategic partners to provide services to nearly 7,000 students, their parents, and schools. To learn more about Partners for Education’s programs and services, visit: http://partners.berea.edu/programs/.

KHEAA Partner Spotlight

05_KHEAA_TableWe want to take a moment to celebrate the hard work of our long time strategic partner Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, or KHEAA, to make college more accessible for Kentucky students of all ages. They state their mission as: “Expanding educational opportunities by providing financial and informational resources that enable Kentuckians to attain their higher education goals.”

KHEAA’s informational resources map a large portion of the path to higher education. On KHEAA’s webpage, students and adult learners can find information that will help them plan for higher education, pick out a program, pay for school, and succeed in and out of the classroom.

KHEAA encourages students to start planning for college as early as the seventh grade. Signing up for Your KHEAA College Connection, the organization’s monthly newsletter, is one of the first steps to take. The publication provides information about higher education, financial aid, and financial literacy. KHEAA also provides detailed planning timelines for each year of high school, strategies for entrance and placement tests, and tips on common admission criteria like essays and interviews.

Paying for college can appear daunting; however, there are many resources to make it less difficult. KHEAA helps students and families understand the real cost of college and what resources are available to meet that cost. On their website, KHEAA lists financial aid opportunities and how to apply for them. In addition, KHEAA provides information and strategies to improve financial literacy and money management. Their resources cover loan repayment, budgeting, the difference between debit and credit cards, and how to prevent identity theft.

KHEAA Road ShowKHEAA takes many of their resources on tour with the College Info Road Show. The mobile classroom is equipped with satellite Internet, laptop computers, and indoor and outdoor projectors. These technologies bring the information students need to pursue and succeed in higher education to their communities. To schedule a visit from the College Info Road Show, contact David Scott at dscott@kheaa.com.

KHEAA was established as a public corporation in 1966 to improve access to higher education. To find out more about KHEAA’s efforts or to explore their online resources, visit: www.kheaa.com/website/kheaa/home.