Danessa Saylor had her mind set on attending college right out of high school, but the high cost of a college education stood in her way.
“I had to turn down acceptance letters from colleges that I was unable to afford,” she said.
Without much success on the job front and limited employment opportunities in Harlan County, an Eastern Kentucky community hard hit by the decline of coal production, Saylor had to look for other ways to pay for college.
She applied and received federal student aid to attend Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. Still, the funding did not cover the entire amount for tuition and other college expenses.
That’s when she learned about The Center for Rural Development’s Community Oriented Access to Learning (COAL) program.
The COAL program, administered by The Center and funded through a POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, provides unemployed and underemployed individuals in 14 Kentucky coal-impacted counties, including Harlan County, to obtain training and education that will help support them in finding employment.
With additional funding assistance from the COAL program, Saylor completed her training as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and plans to become a registered nurse.
“This program has allowed me to prepare myself for the road ahead of me,” Saylor said. “Without financial assistance, college would have been difficult for me. I am so thankful for all the help The Center for Rural Development has given me.”
Saylor graduated from Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in May with an associate degree in science and plans to attend Berea College’s nursing program in the fall.
While a student, Saylor was a member of the TRIO Academic Advantage program, an honor society that helps students plan for academic excellence and move from a two-year to a four-year college institution; participated in an Appalachian Studies class, where she received an invitation to attend and present at a national conference in Washington, DC; and served as a student tutor.
These experiences provided valuable leadership opportunities, but her primary goal has always been to pursue a career in nursing.
“I have wanted to become a nurse for most of my life,” Saylor said. “I have grown up with several nurses in my life: two aunts and one great-aunt. I am inspired by their strength and care for others.”
For more information about the COAL program, please contact The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or visit www.centertech.com.
The program is open to unemployed and underemployed individuals who live in Bell, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, Letcher, McCreary, Perry, Pulaski, and Whitley counties.