Sunday, April 29, 2018

Eastern Kentucky students, teachers shine amid adversity

Central Appalachia is suffering from the opioid epidemic and the near-collapse of the region's steam-coal industry, but good things are happening in the schools of Eastern Kentucky.

At the annual East Kentucky Leadership Conference in Hindman Thursday night, the Youth Leadership Award went to the science classes of Belfry High School, the state's easternmost, for a research project that tests the quality of well water. The goal of the project, which won a statewide competition, is to have groundwater regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. For a list of all the winners, click here; Hazard's WYMT-TV will broadcast the ceremony tonight at 7 ET.

Earlier in the week, former Courier Journal editor David Hawpe was impressed with what he saw at the latest Forging Innovation in Rural Education summit at the East Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville. "What I saw buoyed me, as it has every time I’ve attended over the last few years," Hawpe writes for the Louisville newspaper.

"More than 14,000 people were there, including over 1,300 in person and others watching online in 42 states," as well as Canada, France, the United Kingdom, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Peru and elsewhere, Hawpe reports. "More than 160 teachers and students were presenters. . . . It was not just innovative teachers who dazzled me. Equally impressive were the students who spotlighted their own efforts at solving problems and pushing forward. They organized . . . their own health and wellness conference . . . with student teams making strategic plans to address the region’s problems."

The event was sponsored by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative as part of the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative, a program funded as part of the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" initiative. Hawpe is a member of the initiative's national advisory council.

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