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Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, third from left, met with Forward in the Fifth executive director Jim Tackett, second from left; board chair Dr. Dessie Bowling and board member Michael Cornett.

The Center for Rural Development and Forward in the Fifth wrapped up a week of live “College and Career Readiness: Planning Forward” web video broadcasts Friday with a special appearance by Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.

Holliday, who has been traveling across Kentucky March 12-16 to promote the statewide Operation Preparation initiative, visited The Center’s video production studio on the final day of the webinar project to take part in a segment on education, arts and humanities, and public service.

Webinar host Michael Cornett, director of marketing and public relations for The Center and Forward in the Fifth board member, welcomed Holliday and co-panelists Connie Hunt, general manager of The Arena in Corbin, and Dave Mather, executive director of Small, Rural, Tribal and Border Regional Center (SRTB-RC), a Public Safety Program operated by The Center, to the program on Friday.

The live broadcast along with others held each afternoon during the week were made available to middle and high school students in 120 schools in 32 counties in South Central and Southeastern Kentucky.

“We want to help students realize their potential, maximize their academic preparation and stay on track for success during and after high school. Forward in the Fifth’s approach to Operation Preparation is one excellent example of implementation. This is a great way to reach large numbers of students with a very coordinated, focused activity.”

Commissioner Terry Holliday
Kentucky Department of Education

The web broadcasts, presented by The Center and Forward in the Fifth in partnership with Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, Green River Regional Educational Cooperative, WIN Learning, and Sonic Foundry, were staged in conjunction with Operation Preparation week in Kentucky.

All week, middle and high school students have been getting advice from professionals working in the field on what they can do academically to prepare for college and a future career.

The webinar panelists included representatives from 14 different professional career clusters who discussed postsecondary preparation and career opportunities in their respective fields. State Agriculture Commissioner James Comer made a special guest appearance on Thursday to talk about expanded careers in agriculture.

“Assisting young people in selecting a college and/or life-long career is one of the most rewarding tasks we face,” said Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth. “The creation and broadcasting of this webinar series will hopefully plant a seed in the minds of our students across the region and beyond that it is never too early to begin preparing for the future.”

Forward in the Fifth, a nonprofit organization and affiliate of The Center, 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 formula to achieve success is simply, plan your work and work your plan,” said Congressman Rogers, the visionary behind Forward in the Fifth. “Through these webinars, students will hear directly from professionals and learn what is required to accomplish their college and career goals.”

Videotaped segments of all five live webinars, including a pre-recorded session filmed earlier in the week with representatives from Western Kentucky University, Lindsey Wilson College, and Somerset Community College, will soon be made available to educators and students across the region and state.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for students to be able to engage with career professionals around one or more of the career clusters,” said George Wilson, executive director of Green River Regional Educational Cooperative. “This use of technology allows a large number of students in multiple locations to interact with those career professionals as a part of their regular school day.”

“Going to college and graduating from college should be the goal for all students in the Commonwealth,” added panelist Kim Cleburg, associate dean of transitional education and assessment at Somerset Community College. “Educating parents and students on how to fulfill these goals is essential.”

The webinar project was funded by a U.S. Department of Education i3 federal grant awarded to Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative and Green River Regional Educational Cooperative to advance college and career readiness.

During Operation Preparation week, eighth-graders and sophomores all across the state met one-on-one with trained community advisors to talk about their college and career plans and the classes needed to reach their career goals. Operation Preparation is a joint effort by the Kentucky Department of Education and the Department of Workforce Development.

“Every student in Kentucky should have meaningful college and career opportunities when they graduate from high school,” said Jeff Hawkins, director of the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative. “The series of webinars provides our students with a valuable resource, enabling them to learn from a wide range of practitioners and engage in the process of intentionally ‘planning forward’.”

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

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