Forward in the Fifth (FIF) is a grassroots, non-profit organization formed in 1986 by the vision and leadership of Congressman Hal Rogers, educators, business and community leaders in southern and eastern Kentucky. The goal was to create an independent, community-based organization for raising the educational levels of residents in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District. At that time, the District was identified in the 1980 Census as having the lowest level of educational attainment in the nation.
Over the years, the service area has continued to grow. In 1991, Kentucky lost a congressional seat and the state was redistricted. The Fifth District shifted eastward. FIF continued serving the original 27 counties and added 12 counties that were part of the new Fifth District. More recently, the 2000 and 2010 Census results has warranted , FIF to shift its service areas once again. Forward in the Fifth currently serves 45 counties in its primary service area of Southern and Eastern Kentucky and continues to serve counties even if they no longer reside in the Fifth Congressional District due to redistricting. To view a map outlining the current service area, click here. On occasion, Forward in the Fifth’s service extends beyond Southern and Eastern Kentucky, affecting the entire state.
The FIF service area has a long history of persistent poverty. The Appalachian Regional Commission currently includes 33 of the counties served by FIF on its FY2014 “economically distressed counties” list. Ten more are classified as “at-risk” and one as “transitional”. None has reached “attainment,” the highest classification. Based on the recent Census estimates, Kentucky has 16 counties ranked in the top 100 highest poverty rates nationwide (median household income). All of these are part of FIF’s service area, including Owsley and Clay counties, which rank third and fourth respectively.
FIF’s vision is “that residents in the communities we serve will have the educational opportunities necessary to live full and productive lives.” Over the past two decades, FIF has been instrumental in creating the need and urgency of education reform across the Commonwealth and provided opportunities for relevant issues in education to be explored and voiced. The development and implementation of numerous programs aimed at reducing high school dropout rates, enhancing science and math instruction, improving school attendance, increasing the number of residents attending college, providing meaningful opportunities for parents and businesses to support education and raising the expectations of students, parents, teachers and communities have resulted in much success. In all its endeavors, FIF strives to bring communities and schools together.
In 2011, FIF celebrated 25 years by hosting an anniversary luncheon and summit in Hazard. Featured speakers were Congressman “Hal” Rogers and Gene Wilhoit, former Commissioner of Education in Kentucky and Executive Director of the Council of Chief State and School Officers. Both men addressed the changing needs of the workforce and emphasized the need for all students to seek college or career training. They further challenged educators and communities to work together to help all students achieve higher educational attainment.
During the next four years, Forward in the Fifth will be partnering with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative to further define, implement and sustain 21st Century learning within 18 rural counties. Through KVEC’s 2013 award of Race to the Top District funding, schools, communities, and families will collaborate to transform educational success to new levels in Appalachia.
FIF is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and is based at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Kentucky.