U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), fourth from left, spoke about the importance of local communities working together to advance educational attainment throughout the region at a Forward in the Fifth press conference held April 21 at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset. Jim Tackett, third from left, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, announced Clay County is establishing a Local Education Affiliate Program (LEAP), which will work to raise public awareness about high school dropout prevention and help students reach their full potential. Representing Clay County schools and project partners are Kelly Sandlin, far left, president of Manchester/Clay County Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Deanna Stivers Allen, second from left, instructional supervisor; and Amon Couch, far right, assistant superintendent.
Clay County schools have been awarded grant funding from Forward in the Fifth and The Center for Rural Development to advance educational attainment in the region.
The school system will receive $1,500 in “seed money” to address a relevant educational issue in the county and be established as a member of Forward in the Fifth’s Local Education Affiliate Program (LEAP) that works to provide ongoing solutions to some of the region’s top educational challenges.
Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, announced the award recipients and recognized members of the winning school systems at a news conference held April 21 at The Center in Somerset.
The grants represent the first LEAP grants to be awarded by Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and affiliate of The Center, to engage local communities in working together to identify challenges and implement solutions to improve education.
U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), who formed Forward in the Fifth with a group of regional educators, parents, and business leaders in 1986, attended the event and stressed the importance of local affiliate partnerships.
"When Forward in the Fifth was created 25 years ago, we faced much different challenges in education," Rogers said. "The high school drop-out rate was our main focus in 1986, but today, our classrooms are impacted by the drug epidemic, intense bullying and ensuring students have enough food over the weekend.
“Our teachers, administrators and community members now have a heightened awareness of all the influential factors in our students' success,” he added. “The Local Education Affiliate Program is designed to catapult specific solutions to obstacles our students face both in and out of the classroom."
According to the grant proposal, entitled “Reclaiming the Economic Viability of Our County One Student at a Time: Ending the Dropout Epidemic in Clay County,” a newly formed group of community partners and educators will work collaboratively on a comprehensive plan to raise public awareness about high school dropout prevention and help students reach their full potential.
“Clay County is in the midst of an epidemic that continues to hamper the education, health, and economic viability of the county,” instructional supervisor Dr. Deanna Stivers Allen, who wrote the grant for Clay County schools, said. “This is a new initiative that will reach into all areas of the county and into each home by targeting those families who have students that are at risk of dropping out of school.”
In the grant proposal, community leaders and educators have identified the following goals:
• develop an understanding of the dropout data and the consequences of the dropout epidemic throughout the community;
• develop a plan that will show a reduction in the dropout rate and increase in graduation rate;
• establish a Student Success Team at Clay County Middle School, Campbell Reed Alternative School, and Clay County High School;
• establish a network with others in the community to identify solutions to this epidemic;
• and develop and implement a media campaign for parents of students in grades 5-12 aimed at keeping students in school.
LEAP grants make funding available to local communities to serve as a catalyst to advance educational attainment throughout the region and help establish a county-specific group devoted solely to the improvement of education.
“Education-related issues are at the heart of many of our region’s challenges today—retention of young people, production of high quality and quantity of skilled workers, health status of today’s workforce, and career readiness,” Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center, said. “By creating a local education affiliate program, our communities are being proactive and seeking viable solutions embraced by local leaders and residents.”
“It is the responsibility of each community to increase the value of education, not just our schools,” Tackett said. “The creation of Local Education Affiliate Programs (LEAP) encourages everyone to have a vested interest in raising the educational bar by being part of the solution.”
In addition to Clay County schools, Monroe and Pulaski counties will each receive $1,500 in grant funding to address an educational challenge in the region. Each project must be completed within six months of the grant award.
More local Forward in the Fifth affiliates are expected to be created in the future as stakeholders in local communities form partnerships and additional funding support is made available to prospective applicants.
For more information on Forward in the Fifth or LEAP, contact Tackett at The Center for Rural Development at 606-677-6000 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.