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Schools in Wayne, Letcher, Breathitt, Bath, Floyd, and Johnson counties are taking a “LEAP” forward to advance education in the region and change the lives of students in their local communities.

Forward in the Fifth, in partnership with The Center for Rural Development, has awarded $9,000 in funding support to five groups in these six Southern and Eastern Kentucky counties to address a relevant educational issue in their local communities during the latest round of Local Educational Affiliate Program (LEAP) grant funding.

Award recipients will establish a Forward in the Fifth-sponsored Local Educational Affiliate Program in each of the counties they serve and use the funding as “seed money” to move forward on a project that meets an educational need for students in that community.

Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, announced the latest award recipients and presented LEAP grant funding to selected applicants at a press conference on Oct. 18 at The Center in Somerset.

LEAP funding support will help the following groups tackle some of their greatest educational challenges, including these top issues identified in the region:


Monticello and Wayne County schools, Wayne County, “Monticello-Wayne County Teen Leadership Program ($1,500)—Students from both school districts will be selected to participate in a career-readiness and service-learning program. Once a month, teen leaders will visit a local business or organization where they will job shadow, observe, and network with business professionals. They also will work together to complete a service-learning project.


Jenkins Independent Board of Education, Letcher County, “College and Career Ready” program ($1,500)—The local board of education, in partnership with the University of Pikeville, will provide a dual-credit program whereas high school students can take college-level courses and earn both high school and college credit for the courses. The LEAP award would further promote this program and partner high school students taking dual-credit courses with seventh- and eighth-grade students to mentor them toward college readiness.

Bath County School District, Bath County, “Wildcat Leadership Council,” ($1,500)—Bath County High School freshmen, chosen through a competitive selection process, will participate once a month in themed-college and career-ready events. Students will explore careers in different professions through presentations and visits to colleges, businesses, and the state Capitol.

Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), serving Floyd and Johnson counties, “Bridging the Culture Chasm,” ($3,000)—BSCTC will provide professional development for educators in Floyd and Johnson counties on barriers to learning for low-income students and engagement strategies to promote secondary- and post-secondary education.

Jackson Independent School District, Breathitt County, “LEAP Project,” ($1,500)—Jackson Independent School will host a career night and a college forum paired with follow-up visits to the families of interested students and a college tour for students.






“The advancement of education across our region is an extremely important task in which each of our communities must engage,” Tackett said. “The spirit of our local education affiliate program is to encourage collaboration, creativity, and energy around important educational issues impacting many aspects of our region.

 “It is the work of these dedicated individuals, from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, that is and will continue to transform our great region,” he added.

These grants are the latest 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.

“The LEAP program is off to a great start. The collaborative efforts between educators and community leaders make the program successful,” U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), one of Forward in the Fifth’s original founders, said. “It spurs ideas and projects that can be shared across school districts to improve education in our region.”

In addition to the grant announcements, representatives from school systems in Pulaski, Monroe, and Clay counties who received LEAP grant funding earlier this year gave a brief overview of their completed projects.

Pulaski County schools worked on a local literacy program, “Ring the Bell for Literacy!,” which encourages children to develop a love for reading at an early age; Clay County formed a group of community partners and educators to draft a community-wide plan to raise public awareness about high school dropout prevention; and Monroe County schools launched a mentoring program for high school students identified as at-risk for academic failure.

All LEAP-funded projects must be completed with six months of the grant award.

For more information on Forward in the Fifth or LEAP, contact Tackett at The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or email

Click here to see additional photos from Forward in the Fifth’s LEAP news conference.