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Forward in the Fifth guest speaker U.S. Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05).

HAZARD,Ky.—Three of Kentucky’s top education supporters were recognized for their work in helping advance education in
Southern and Eastern Kentucky at Forward in the Fifth’s 25thanniversary celebration and “Unbridled Learning” Educational Summit on Monday,Nov. 7, on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College.

U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05)—the visionary behind the creation of Forward in the Fifth—was presented Forward in the Fifth’s inaugural AppLE (Appalachian Leaders in Education) award for his role in establishing the nonprofit organization in 1986.

 Click here to view more photos from Forward in the Fifth’s 25th anniversary celebration and Unbridled Learning Educational Summit.

Click here to view TV news coverage from the event from WYMT 57. 

Rogers, in turn, personally recognized two other education leaders at the event for their contributions to education reform.

Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the national Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and former Kentucky Commissioner of Education, and Paul E. Patton, president of the University of Pikeville and two-term Kentucky governor, were presented Difference Maker Awards from Congressman Rogers for making a positive impact on education in the region and throughout the entire commonwealth.

The award presentations were made before nearly 200 educators, business leaders, parents, and students in attendance at the First Federal Building on the Hazard Community and Technical College campus to celebrate Forward in the Fifth’s success and accomplishments over the last 25 years.

“In order to truly progress and move forward in the Fifth Congressional District, we must focus on education,” said Rogers. “I worked with a group of leaders to launch Forward in the Fifth, because I wanted to transform the region, improve access to higher education, and find ways to retain our best and brightest students at home.”

Difference Maker Award recipient Gene Wilhoit

During Wilhoit’s tenure as Kentucky’s Education Commissioner from 2000-2006, leadership, finance reform, equity initiatives, preschool and technology enhancement were implemented as part of the historic Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA).

Wilhoit addressed educators and community leaders at the anniversary event’s “Unbridled Learning” Educational Summit, which highlighted the state’s new Unbridled Learning accountability system mandated by Kentucky Senate Bill 1. The new system replaces testing systems established under KERA.

Participants at the summit attended breakout sessions on common core standards, college and career readiness, dropout prevention, and the new accountability system.

Patton, who spoke earlier in the day at a combined meeting of the Kentucky River and Big Sandy P-16 Councils, helped overhaul Kentucky’s higher education system after being elected governor in 1995. Those sweeping reforms included making the state’s community colleges and technical schools independent of the University of Kentucky and organizing them into the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).

Difference Maker Award recipient Paul E. Patton

Patton served two terms as Kentucky governor from 1995 to 2003, and was named president of the University of Pikeville in early 2010.

Attendees at Monday’s anniversary event also heard from others who have had a significant role in the history of Forward in the Fifth, such as Ewell Balltrip, president and CEO of the National Institute for Hometown Security.

Balltrip was among the original group of leaders who worked with Rogers in the mid-1980s to make his vision for Forward in the Fifth a reality.

“We advocated for change. We advocated for improvement. We advocated for a better future for the Fifth District,” Balltrip said. “But we did so from a platform that recognized for the change to be meaningful, for the improvements to be lasting and for the future to be secure, the driving forces had to come from within the district and the people who live here.”

U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) is presented Forward in the Fifth’s inaugural “AppLE” Award

To honor citizens who have accepted Rogers’ charge to better education in the region, Forward in the Fifth also used the occasion to launch the AppLE (Appalachian Leaders in Education) awards program within its 42-county service area.

Forward in the Fifth Executive Director Jim Tackett and Board Chair Dr. Dessie Bowling explained the awards will raise awareness of school and community interdependence, and showcase the best practices of individuals, schools, and communities that are making a positive impact toward educational progress.

“Our course is clear. Education and learning must not be stagnant in a world that is changing daily,” Tackett said. “We must be bold in our ideas, innovative in our strategies, and steadfast in our actions.”

As the first AppLE award recipient, Rogers was presented a gift of appreciation acknowledging his work with Forward in the Fifth until a special commissioned regional artist’s rendering of the AppLE award trophy is released early next year.

Beginning in 2012, Forward in the Fifth will accept nominations for the AppLE awards in four categories: student or student group; parent or parent group; educator or related staff; and business, civic group, or community leaders.

“Forward in the Fifth’s 25th anniversary provided an opportunity to honor the dedicated individuals who long ago recognized the need to improve education in the Fifth Congressional District, celebrate past accomplishments, and challenge all of us to work collaboratively today and in the future to ensure that our youth have access to a high-quality education,” Bowling said. “The Forward in the Fifth staff and board of directors remain committed to supporting educational efforts that will improve the quality of life for all people in Kentucky.”

Forward in the Fifth, located at 2292 South U.S. 27 (at Traffic Light 15) in Somerset, Ky., is an affiliate of The Center for Rural Development.

For more information about Forward in the Fifth, contact executive director Jim Tackett at 606-677-6000 or via email at