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Area Students Explore Career and Workforce Opportunities

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KRA Corp. job readiness project manager Linda Cooper helps Mahalia Lawson, right, a freshman at Whitley County High School, and Summer Amador, an eighth-grade Whitley County Middle School student, fill out a job application. Whitley County middle and high school students received information on career and workforce development skills at a program presented by Forward in the Fifth and The Center for Rural Development, and other educational partners on May 26 at The Center in Somerset. All of the students are mentees in the University of the Cumberlands mentoring program.

Whitley County Middle School student Zach Newman is discovering what he wants to do with his life after he graduates high school.

Newman and 19 other Whitley County middle and high school students—all student mentees in the University of the Cumberlands mentoring program—visited The Center for Rural Development in Somerset on May 26 to learn more about career and workforce opportunities.

The program, funded by AT & T, was presented by Forward in the Fifth and The Center in partnership with Whitley County schools, University of the Cumberlands, and Somerset Community College.

“The program helped us realize what opportunities we have in life and to set goals,” Newman, an eighth-grade student, said after learning more about workforce and career options.

The session at The Center was the third in a four-part series to highlight opportunities students can explore if interested in government careers at either the local, state, or federal level. The students viewed a webcast about federal government employment and learned about the process, benefits, and resources available for future career endeavors.

AT&T’s interest in funding the education-based workshop series and campus visits grew from the mentoring program’s past success with more than 200 young people having been positively impacted during its tenure.
Afterwards, the group toured the Somerset Community College campus, where they received information on some of the college’s degree programs, including its nationally renowned physical therapy program.

“We need to eliminate the mindset that ‘college isn’t for everyone,’” U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05), who founded Forward in the Fifth in 1986 with other business and community leaders, said. “There are so many new programs, certifications and degrees available on campuses across Southern and Eastern Kentucky that there are viable options in secondary education for everyone.

“Whether you want to become a doctor, operate a family business or be an electrician,” he said, “students can obtain a competitive advantage by starting their journey on a college campus close to their home.”

Forward in the Fifth, a non-profit organization and affiliate of The Center, has been working for the last 25 years to reverse low educational attainment levels in the Fifth Congressional District.

“Opportunities like these are so important for our young people,” Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, said. “Though this collaboration, students benefit by being able to see and experience the myriad of choices they have for their lives—furthering their education, an overview of interesting careers, and a support system to make the vision become a reality.”

The Whitley County middle and high school students are part of an ongoing mentor/mentee cohort at the University of the Cumberlands designed to encourage high school completion and strongly consider higher education or technical school training for a more successful future.

Program presenters included Linda Cooper, project manager for KRA Corp., a job readiness program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Cumberlands Workforce Investment Board and administered by the Lake Cumberland Area Development District Inc. with Workforce Investment Act Title 1 monies; Les Fugate, The Center’s executive vice president and COO; and Sean Ayers, a recruiter for Somerset Community College.

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