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Former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins and Rogers Scholars Ja Cinda Warner, Scotty Reams, Luke Landis, and Katherine Stockham

The Center for Rural Development’s 2012 Rogers Scholars were inspired today by former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins to push forward with their career goals and use their leadership skills to create a better way of life for all Kentuckians.

“She was the first female governor of Kentucky and was one of the first female governors in the United States,” said Rogers Scholar Lamon Hubbs of Clinton County. “That really inspired me to know that no matter who you are, or where you come from, you can do whatever you want in life as long as you have the drive.”

Rising high school juniors from across Southern and Eastern Kentucky—at The Center this week for the first class of Rogers Scholars—got to personally meet Collins and hear about some of her greatest experiences and challenges as the 56th governor of Kentucky.

Collins, who now works with Georgetown College where she developed the Center for Commerce, Language, and Culture, served as governor of Kentucky from 1983 to 1987. During her tenure, she was instrumental in bringing Toyota Motor Manufacturing to Kentucky and is credited with helping to push for the passage of a $300 million education reform package, which paved the way for the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act in the next administration.

Former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins

The former governor shared with Rogers Scholars stories about the events leading up to Toyota’s decision to build an auto plant in Georgetown in 1986—one of the key achievements of the state’s modern manufacturing era.

“It was really touching how she took the time to become friends (with Toyota executives) and welcome them to Kentucky,” said Rogers Scholar Madison Allen of Russell County. “It inspires me to go out and become that kind of leader.”

Collins encouraged the Scholars to think big and have big ideas.

“This is a great program, and I give credit to Congressman Rogers for this,” Collins said, referring to the Rogers Scholars program and The Center for Rural Development. “These are great students … (but) we just have to keep encouraging them that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to.”

Rogers Scholar Jacob Schneider of Bell County took Collins’ advice to heart.

“I was really inspired by the fact that she beat all of the odds to become governor of Kentucky,” he said. “It sets a good example for the things I plan to do in the future.”

“We were very fortunate to have Governor Collins speak to our Rogers Scholars,” said Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center. “She is one of Kentucky’s great leaders, and continues to be an inspiration to these young students who are setting goals and planning for their future.”

Mary Madison Lyons of Monroe County grew up hearing about Collins from her grandmother and was inspired by today’s message.

“I knew a little bit about her, but when she talked about being proud of where you come from, her comments really hit home with me,” Lyons said. “Most Rogers Scholars are from small towns, and I could tell a huge difference after her speech that more people are becoming proud of their Kentucky heritage.”

Rogers Scholars is an intensive one-week summer program that provides leadership and exclusive college scholarships from 16 colleges and universities to high school students within The Center’s 42-county primary service area in Southern and Eastern Kentucky.

The program was started in 1998 by The Center based on U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers’ (KY-05) goal that “no young person will have to leave home to find his or her future.”

Rogers Scholar graduates are encouraged to build their careers in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. The program is provided tuition-free to participants and their families.

Click here to view photographs from the Rogers Scholars program.

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