School systems in Pulaski, Monroe, and Clay counties have been awarded grant funding from Forward in the Fifth and The Center for Rural Development to advance educational attainment in the region.
Each system will receive $1,500 in “seed money” to address a relevant educational issue in their county and be established as a member of Forward in the Fifth’s Local Education Affiliate Program (LEAP) that works to provide ongoing solutions to some of the region’s top educational challenges.
Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, announced the award recipients and recognized members of the winning school systems at a news conference held April 21 at The Center in Somerset.
The grants represent the first LEAP awards to be presented by Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and affiliate of The Center, to engage local communities in working together to identify challenges and implement solutions to improve education.
As newly established local affiliates of Forward in the Fifth, Pulaski, Monroe, and Clay county schools will work with community stakeholders to implement specific actions to reduce educational challenges and strengthen educational progress throughout the region.
U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), who formed Forward in the Fifth with a group of regional educators, parents, and business leaders in 1986, attended the event and stressed the importance of the local affiliate partnerships.
“When Forward in the Fifth was created 25 years ago, we faced much different challenges in education,” Rogers said. “The high school drop-out rate was our main focus in 1986, but today, our classrooms are impacted by the drug epidemic, intense bullying, and ensuring students have enough food over the weekend.
“Our teachers, administrators and community members now have a heightened awareness of all the influential factors in our students’ success,” he added. “The Local Education Affiliate Program is designed to catapult specific solutions to obstacles our students face both in and out of the classroom.”
LEAP funding support will help communities in Pulaski, Monroe, and Clay counties tackle some of their greatest educational challenges, including these projects as outlined by the award recipients:
- Pulaski County Schools’ “Ring the Bell for Literacy!” — The Pulaski County School System will work with local stakeholders to build upon “Ring the Bell for Literacy!,” a local literacy program that encourages young children to read. Kindergarten and first-grade students who read aloud a book from an assigned reading list to authorized school personnel will receive a coupon to ring the Literacy Bell at the Pulaski County Library. Four times a year, the library, located in downtown Somerset, will host Literacy Bell Celebrations for students and their parents.
- Clay County’s “Reclaiming the Economic Viability of Our County One Student at a Time: Ending the Dropout Epidemic in Clay County” — A newly formed group of community partners and educators will work collaboratively to decrease the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate in Clay County. The project will include the development of a community-wide plan that will raise public awareness about high school dropout prevention and help students reach their full potential.
- Monroe County Schools’ “Targeting for Success” — By targeting Monroe County High School students identified at-risk for academic failure, a team will develop a mentoring program to link these students with an adult mentor. The initial phase will engage 20 high school sophomores and 20 juniors in the first “targeting group.” The program will track student success, academic improvement, and non-cognitive indicator improvement.
LEAP grants make funding available to local communities to serve as a catalyst to advance educational attainment throughout the region and help establish a county-specific group devoted solely to the improvement of education.
“Education-related issues are at the heart of many of our region’s challenges today—retention of young people, production of high quality and quantity of skilled workers, health status of today’s workforce, and career readiness,” Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center, said. “By creating a local education affiliate program, our communities are being proactive and seeking viable solutions embraced by local leaders and residents.”
More local Forward in the Fifth affiliates are expected to be created in the future as stakeholders in local communities form partnerships and additional LEAP funding support is made available to potential applicants.
All three projects awarded during this funding cycle must be completed within six months of the grant award.
“It is the responsibility of each community to increase the value of education, not just our schools,” Tackett said. “The creation of Local Education Affiliate Program (LEAP) encourages everyone to have a vested interest in raising the educational bar by being part of the solution.”
For more information on Forward in the Fifth or LEAP, contact Tackett at The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or via email.
Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and an affiliate of The Center for Rural Development, was formed in 1986 by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) and other leaders to work to reverse low educational attainment levels in the Fifth Congressional District. The organization strives to engage community stakeholders to advance the value of education; serves as advocates to advance all education systems to improve educational attainment; and supports schools and stakeholders to secure needed resources to improve the quality of education within their local communities.