Feed the Mind Pulaski County Emphasizes LiteracyMay 21, 2014
Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear joined more than 900 elementary students, school superintendents, and community and business leaders for the fourth annual “Feed the Mind – Pulaski County” event to promote and celebrate childhood literacy throughout the region.
Beshear challenged third-grade students from Pulaski County’s eight elementary schools, Somerset and Science Hill Independent school districts and Somerset Christian School to read at least 10 books during their summer break.
The “Feed the Mind – Pulaski County” event was held Monday, April 21, at The Center for Rural Development. The program was started three years ago by Pulaski County businessman and community leader Chuck Coldiron in partnership with Forward in the Fifth and The Center to get students excited about reading and learning in and outside the classroom.
“We know education is the foundation for the future,” said Mrs. Beshear, a former school teacher. “Forward in the Fifth has always been so important in improving the educational attainment level in this region. There is not a better place than to have an event like this than at The Center for Rural Development. We are feeding the minds of these students today.”
Beshear met with school superintendents, community leaders, and government officials – including Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock and Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler – for a roundtable discussion on critical issues important to education in the region.
“It takes a community to educate our children,” Beshear said. “Businesses play an important role in helping youth understand what their career options are, and to support education and training beyond high school graduation. In addition, community colleges are instrumental in helping to create career pathways, offering education and training that meet the needs of individual students.”
“One of the things we have been trying to do for the last four or five years is to emphasize the importance of literacy and to raise the literacy level of everyone – from our children all the way through our adults,” Beshear said. “Education is the foundation of the future for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but reading is the foundation of education.
“If you don’t read, and improve your reading skills, you will not get the kind of education that will lead to the job that will be able to make your community better, which will make our state better,” she added. “It’s a building block. Our opportunity here, with these children, is to get them excited about becoming better readers, so they will be better students.”
“The Fifth Congressional District of Kentucky remains one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States of America,” Coldiron said. “It is a long process to try to do anything to reverse that, but the only way to reverse those fortunes is through education. If you cannot read, you cannot get an education.”
Coldiron credits First Lady Jane Beshear with raising the visibility of the educational challenges in the Appalachian region. “Having the First Lady’s participation in the Feed the Mind event gives it credibility, and her encouragement, devotion and support of youth is unparalleled. She plants the seed within our youth that gives them hope for a better future.”
At the Feed the Mind celebration, students were treated to a free pizza lunch and will receive a complimentary children’s book courtesy of event coordinator and organizer Chuck Coldiron. He issued a challenge last year, and again this year, for students in attendance to participate in a reading essay contest where the winner will receive $1,000 applied toward his/her college education.
Burnside Elementary fourth-grade student Erin Atwell was announced as the winner of the first annual Feed the Mind essay writing contest. She joined First Lady Beshear, Coldiron, and Somerset Community College President Dr. Jo Marshall on stage at this year’s event to accept a $1,000 check that will be deposited in a college education trust fund. The incentive will be used to further her college education at either Somerset Community College or the University of Kentucky.
“Feed the Mind – Pulaski County is about multiple stakeholders within this community committing and supporting literacy long term,” said Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth. “Today’s event was a fun-filled day for our young students. But more importantly, life will be even more exciting and enjoyable when they are literate and have the skills needed to garner success. We are thankful for those who have stepped up to make this possible and look forward to others joining this important mission.”
The regional event was sponsored by the Office of the First Lady, Forward in the Fifth, The Center for Rural Development, organizer Chuck Coldiron, Donatos, Hyundai of Somerset, Pulaski County Public Library, and Clear Channel Lake Cumberland.