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 Pulaski County schools are establishing a Local Education Affiliate Program (LEAP), which will build upon the “Ring the Bell for Literacy!” children’s reading program. Representing Pulaski County schools and project partners are Holly Bowers, far left, community education director; Carol Sexton, second from left, of the Pulaski County Public Library; Dr. Mike Crowhurst, fifth from left, district grant writer; Sonya Wilds, sixth from left, assistant superintendent; and Beth Hargis, far right, principal of Kentucky Tech Pulaski County Area Technology Center.
The Pulaski County school system has 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 the 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."
Pulaski County schools will work with local stakeholders—including the Pulaski County Public Library, Pulaski County Gifted Center, Pulaski County Area Technology Center, Pulaski County Recycling Center, and Reading is Fundamental—to build upon “Ring the Bell for Literacy!” reading program established in 2008.
“The point of this project is to provide motivation to start learning to read,” Dr. Mike Crowhurst, who wrote the grant for Pulaski County schools, said. “As these students learn to read, they can then move on toward learning how to read to learn.”
Kindergarten and first-grade students who read aloud a book from an assigned reading list to authorized school personnel will receive a coupon to ring the Literacy Bell at the Pulaski County Library. Four times a year, the library, located in downtown Somerset, will host Literacy Bell Celebrations for students and their parents.
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 Pulaski County schools, Monroe and Clay 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.
Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and an affiliate of The Center for Rural Development, 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 organization strives to engage community stakeholders to advance the value of education; serves as advocates to advance all education systems to improve educational attainment; and supports schools and stakeholders to secure needed resources to improve the quality of education within their local communities.