For most students, the summer season is a time of rest and total relaxation. For the best and brightest students in our region, however, this summer has been filled with many different youth programs offered through The Center for Rural Development.
The Rogers Explorers camps began with one session on the campus of Lindsey Wilson College and the other at the University of the Cumberlands. The last Explorers camp will be held on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University this week. Rogers Explorers is a three-day camp for rising ninth-grade students interested in Math, Science, and Technology. This program gives students the opportunity to experience what life on a college campus would really entail, and helps them focus their energy on some difficult areas of study. I was fortunate to spend a few days with the campers at Lindsey Wilson College, and I am excited about the potential these young students have in shaping the future of this area.
The Center also hosts another youth program affectionately referred to as ELI (Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute). ELI is geared toward high school students who have an interest in beginning their own businesses. This program is very labor-intensive and requires a full business plan complete with financials and marketing outlines. The groups compete for a valuable college scholarship. This year, the competition was incredibly tough! The winning team created a business for adventure tourism in the Lake Cumberland area. I spent the entire week with these young adults and I was blown away by their creativity and vision. I found myself gleaning so much from their enthusiasm about creating new opportunities in this region.
Rogers Scholars is the flagship youth program offered by The Center. The program targets rising high school juniors and focuses on building leadership experience through hands-on training. Part of the leadership skill building includes climbing a large alpine tower while depending on colleagues to help lead the way. I must say, I tried my hand at the tower and was completely embarrassed by the youth program participants. They were zipping up and down the tower with ease as I was shaking and screaming at times. Luckily, a brief rainstorm came through right as I was about to conquer the tower. The storm gave me a great excuse to climb down quickly and all was right with the world again.
After the tower experience, the Scholars were joined by two very special guests. The first speaker, Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, encouraged and challenged The Center to create the Scholars program 14 years ago. He spoke with the students about returning home to help our region in the future and encouraged them to follow their dreams by getting a good education and making a plan. In a question-and-answer session, the Congressman was asked about his greatest achievement. As he looked into the crowd of Scholars, he said, “I’m looking at it now.”
Kenny Davis, former Olympian and star basketball player, also visited the Scholars. He spoke about his experience in the 1972 Olympic Games and encouraged the students to be thankful for their support systems. Mr. Davis was a captivating speaker. The Scholars were full of questions and seemed to hang on every word he spoke.
All in all, the summer has been full of excitement around here. I look forward to hitting the road again soon to see more of the wonderful sights in our area!