KY school districts’ program reaches ‘PEAK’ with award

KY school districts’ program reaches ‘PEAK’ with award

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 11:07 am

The Messenger 01.12.11

The Kentucky School Boards Association recently presented officials with the Four Rivers Scholarship Foundation and Fulton Independent, Carlisle County, Fulton County and Hickman County schools the Public Education Achieves in Kentucky (PEAK) Award.
The award presentation was made at the Fulton Independent gymnasium following a demonstration of the districts’ winning program.
The PEAK Award was established in 1997 by the KSBA board of directors to bring about greater attention to noteworthy efforts by public schools aimed specifically at enhancing the learning skills of students and to promote the positive impact of public elementary and secondary education in the state.
The Four Rivers Scholarship Foundation began two years ago to provide students in these four school districts with financial assistance, career counseling and ACT preparation to help them become successful adults and to promote economic growth in the region.
Since then, the program has grown and provides career exploration and counseling beginning in middle school, sponsors an annual Christmas book giveaway for students in kindergarten through fourth grade, holds annual career fairs with a local focus and offers dual-credit courses to students to provide a head start on college. In its two years, the program has given away more than 1,000 books, held two annual career fairs and awarded 50 scholarships to students who otherwise might not have been able to overcome financial barriers to continue their education.
Of the 400 juniors and seniors in the four districts, 198 of them are currently taking a total of 970 dual-credit hours, with an annual savings of future post-secondary costs to parents of $97,000. The dual credits are offered in partnership with Murray (Ky.) State University, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Mid-Continent College and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Upon KSBA’s visit to Fulton Independent, Bill Scott, KSBA executive director said, “In an era of shrinking resources, at both the state and federal level, the Four Rivers Scholarship Program is an example of how a region can forge its own solution to a major challenge.”
Delmar Mahan, KSBA president, added, “The Four Rivers Scholarship Program is one of the most stirring presentations I have had the opportunity to be at since I’ve been president.”
“I see it as a benchmark for other school systems to use as a model because it is so inclusive, not only in the number of students, but in their ages, serving students of all ages,” said Allen Kennedy, a member of the KSBA board of directors.
Ronnie Holmes, a member of the KSBA board of directors, added, “It was just amazing to see all four school districts come together and do all of that work for their students.”
“The program was established to build a highly-qualified workforce in Western Kentucky in order to attract industry,” said Robbie Rudolph, a 1973 Fulton Independent graduate involved in the foundation. “Every child can have the opportunity to receive a post-secondary education and not be denied based on the lack of funding, but can pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from a university or trade school.”
Fulton Independent superintendent Dianne Owen said, “I believe the recognition of KSBA awarding our four small districts the PEAK Award will show our students they are fortunate to be able to be a part of the Four Rivers Scholarship Program and to have Mr. Rudolph, the foundation, the colleges, the businesses and the communities giving them the opportunity to get a jump start on post secondary training. Seeing the excitement for the program build among the students and seeing the result of the program in changed lives is the true ‘PEAK’ of the program.”
Dennis Bledsoe, superintendent at Fulton County, said the program better prepares students for college or careers, while Kenny Wilson, superintendent at Hickman County, said the program assists students through everyone’s combined efforts. Keith Shoulders, superintendent at Carlisle County Schools, said the program assists students in developing the career skills required for jobs in Western Kentucky.
Wendell Benningfield, assistant superintendent for Fulton Independent Schools, serves as director of the scholarship foundation.
“We have 50 students on scholarships from the four school districts,” Benningfield said. “Each student’s progress is tracked to make sure they are successful academically. The goal is to ensure they not only begin a post-secondary program, but remain on track to completion.”

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