“We’ve never seen a project like this one,” said Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) Executive Director Bill Scott, referring to the Four Counties Scholarship Foundation program.
That’s why four school districts in far western Kentucky will share this year’s prestigious Peak Award from KSBA. The award recognizes academic efforts that are go above and beyond.
Scott told an auditorium of students, elected officials, school officials and college participants that when KSBA thought of collaboration in the past, it was “one city with one district”. Scott praised the program for the participation of the business community, school districts and private and public colleges for a new kind of collaboration.
Robby Rudolph who, according to Fulton City School Superintendent Diane Owens got the whole program going with a phone call, said that he was born and raised in Fulton and simply asked Diane how we could get “Fulton back to being Mayberry” referring to simpler time of prosperity. Rudolph graduated from Fulton City Schools in 1973 and, like so many young people, left the area to find new opportunities. He is the owner of Rudolph Tires in Murray and did a stint in Frankfort during the Fletcher Administration.
Rudolph said that the Four Rivers Scholarship Project is a ten year commitment. The goal is to prepare students in Fulton City and County, Carlisle and Hickman Counties to go on from high school to higher education and come back and be the economic engine of their home towns. It is Rudolph's goal to create economic opportunity for children because "there's never been a better place to be raised than West Kentucky."
The project gives books to elementary students, introduces middle and junior high students to career paths and helps high school students earn college credit and once out of high school provides scholarship money to help them stay in college.
One student who benefited from the first year of the Four Rivers Scholarship Foundation is Chelsea Davis, a 2010 graduate who is now enrolled at Western Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. Chelsea is planning on becoming a nurse by completing the two year nursing program at WKCTC. She receives $500 each quarter in scholarship money. She commutes to school from Fulton County and said she is happy to come back anytime to talk about what the scholarship money has done for her.
Senator Ken Winters, who chairs the Kentucky Senate Education Committee, had recently checked on his district’s ACT scores. In English, Reading and Science, his ten school districts were above the state average. Only in Mathematics did his districts fall below the state and national average. Winters spoke with students taking AP Calculus and he said these courses will help raise scores on the ACT.
Rep. Steve Rudy told the crowd that he praises this program when he is in Frankfort. Following Sen. Winters to the podium, he said he could not imagine doing his job without Winters with whom he says he speaks to often on the phone.
Superintendent Owens accepted the award and said it will travel among the school districts. She recognized the colleges and universities that are participating in the program – WKCTC, UT-Martin, Murray State University and Mid-Continent University.