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It is no secret that school systems in Southern and Eastern Kentucky continue to fight rising rising high school droupout rates.

But educators now have a new weapon at their disposal in that battle that can encourage more students to stay in school and use education as a stepping stone to pursue successful career goals.

More than 40 educators from 15 Southern and Eastern Kentucky counties were introduced to the “Stay in School Toolkit” dropout prevention video and discussion guide just released by Forward in the Fifth and The Center for Rural Development at a regional training session on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at The Center in Somerset.

Laura Kamperman, community education specialist for Forward in the Fifth, presented the video project and shared some of the real-life stories recorded by individuals in the video. The “‘Stay in School Toolkit” contains personal testimonies from eight individuals from rural Appalachia and how choices they made positively—and in some cases negatively—impacted their education and future.

A discussion guide also is included with the resource that encourages students to freely discuss messages in the video sessions and how those situations apply to their lives.

Educators in attendance said the new video and guide will be valuable assets as they work to encourage success in their classrooms and schools.

“The ‘Stay in School Toolkit’ sends a strong message to not only students, but to educators,” Linda Rudolph, a high school guidance counselor from Garrard County High School, said after watching one of the video segments. “It reminds us that we are dealing with people, not numbers. Each interview focuses on the diverse needs of students.”

In the video, people from all walks of life, including a professional baseball player, successful entrepreneur, Kentucky National Guard sergeant, and district court judge, talk about how they used education to advance their career goals. Conversely, students will also see a candid message from high school dropout Nick Slovin, who is serving prison time after squandering his education and a promising basketball career on drugs.

“If students could hear Nick tell his story, then it just might change their lives,” said Gregory Chaney, program director for dropout prevention in Monticello Independent Schools. “Despite your circumstances, you can excel.”

“Real situations allow opportunities for students to discuss very personal experiences in hopes that students will realize the importance of education and staying in school,” added Angela Bray, director of exceptional programs for the Pulaski County Board of Education. “The ‘Stay in School Toolkit’ is a great tool with real people from our area demonstrating a variety of experiences and successes.”

Forward in the Fifth, a nonprofit organization and affiliate of The Center, was created by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) and other leaders in 1986 to help advance educational attainment levels in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.

“It is critical to provide our young people with relevant examples of the value an education has today,” said Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth. “As educators and community leaders alike, we must understand the multiple issues our students deal with in pursuit of a high school education.”

The “Stay in School Toolkit” is being released across the region and beyond, in conjunction with training, to assist in discussion and problem-solving of boosting high school graduation rates.

 Other upcoming training sessions are planned for:

  •  Feb. 16 at The Forum at The Harold Rogers Center (in front of Hazard High School in Hazard)
  • Feb. 24, University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg
  • Feb. 28, Mountain Arts Center, Prestonsburg
  • March 20, Morehead State University, Morehead

To pre-register for these sessions, click here and complete the registration form. All participants must pre-register prior to any of the scheduled sessions. Session times will be determined based on the number of participants, and registrants will be notified of those times.

Educators must attend one of these training sessions before they can receive and use the “Stay in School Toolkit” in their communities to help lower dropout rates.

For more information about the “Stay in School Toolkit,” call 606-677-6000 or email

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