Partners for Education at Berea College

    U.S. Secretary of Education Visits First Rural Promise Neighborhood

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • Lunch_with_StudentsSand Gap, Ky.- United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Sand Gap Elementary School in Jackson County, Kentucky, on November 1 to participate in a roundtable discussion on Berea College’s Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Panelists included students, teachers, parents and Promise Neighborhood staff. The discussion focused on educational challenges and successes in rural America.

      The Berea College Promise Neighborhood, which includes Clay, Jackson, and Owsley counties, is the first rural Promise Neighborhood in the United States. A federally funded initiative that provides deep community support for youth in the service area, Promise Neighborhood works with the counties’ youth from ‘cradle to career’ to ensure that each student has access to high-quality learning experiences and becomes college and career ready. They also help families support their students and work with communities so that children have a safe and healthy place to live and learn.

      Duncan said that he was pleased to see this Promise Neighborhood first hand. “I love the work that’s going on here in this community. I love the sense of ‘cradle to career,’ getting babies off to a good start, and adding rigor in the elementary and middle schools, and having high school students start to take advanced placement classes, then not just send students on to college, but track them to make sure they get the support they need,” he said. “So, we are thrilled to be invested very, very heavily in this community. Just to hear the conversation and see the passion makes you very, very hopeful.”

      Greeting_at_DoorDuncan’s trip was part of a week-long tour of Kentucky and Ohio, where he highlighted the work of rural schools. Acknowledging that students in the region need more access to technology and college, Duncan said that Kentucky’s recent history is cause for optimism. “At every level, whether it’s investing in early childhood, whether it’s literally being the first state to implement Common Core, Kentucky’s done an amazing job of raising expectations and adding rigor,” he said. “I don’t think any state has done more to increase access to AP, advanced placement classes, and not just access—passing rates have doubled the past few years.”

      Though there is still work to be done, Duncan had a message for Kentuckians. “Kentucky should be extraordinarily proud of the progress,” he said. “None of these things are easy. But thinking about ‘cradle to career’ and thinking holistically, thinking how schools partner with non-profits, social service agencies, the business community, faith-based institutions—everyone has to come together on behalf of children.”

      To learn more about the Berea College Promise Neighborhood program, call 859.985.3857 or visit

    College Info Road Show Bus Pays a Visit to Jackson County

    • Posted on by Victoria Fleury
    • For three days students from Jackson County Middle and High School climbed aboard the College Info Road Show school bus for information sessions on scholarships and preparing for college.  The visit was part of an ongoing effort of Berea College’s GEAR UP Partnership with Jackson County Schools.

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      Mark Hoover is the College Info Road Show Coordinator for the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, or KHEAA. He paid the students of Jackson County a special visit to make sure they know about the scholarship opportunities available to all of them.  “They have to realize that the decisions they make in the next five years are the most important decisions they will ever make in their lives,” he said.  “So the earlier the better.”

      The College Info Road Show bus travels to all 120 counties in Kentucky to talk to students about furthering their education and financial aid opportunities to help them do so.  The bus is equipped with satellite Internet access and computer stations for each student so they can research all the college information they need.

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      While in Jackson County, Hoover met with groups of around ten students to discuss the importance of keeping a high grade point average, or GPA, and getting a good ACT score so they will receive scholarship money.  Hoover wanted to emphasize the KEES scholarship in particular because it is available to every Kentucky high school student who attends an accredited institution and makes at least a 2.5 GPA.  The higher GPA and ACT score a student has, the more money they receive, with the average being $1,200 per student.

      Hoover made sure the students knew that scholarships are not only based on their GPA and ACT, although those are very important factors, but they can also be based on a demonstrated talent, whether that is academic, athletic, musical, or artistic talent.  “I didn’t realize the ACT was connected to KHEAA in the first place.  I just thought it had to do with grades and report cards,” said Benjamin Rose, an 8th-grader who has already had experience with taking the ACT.  “The KHEAA bus encouraged me to try better in school, especially learning about the money.”

      Brandy Elam agreed. “The event helped me learn about college and careers,” she said. Elam, an 8th grader at Jackson County Middle School, is interested in attending EKU and becoming a hair dresser.


      The bus visit was organized by Loretta Rose, GEAR UP Academic Specialist for Jackson County, who believes that middle school is not too early to plan for after high school.  “Students need to start planning for their future. It’s just like building a house. If you don’t have a good foundation, then once you start building the house it will collapse. If you don’t have a good foundation in your education, you can’t wait until your senior year,” she said.  “You’re not going to have that background knowledge.”

      The College Info Road Show has now moved on to its next stop, but it left behind many students who are committed to trying harder in school and attending college one day.

      To find out more about KHEAA and the College Info Road Show bus, visit them online at  To find out more about GEAR UP, call (859) 985-3857, or learn about us online at

    WYMT Coverage of Secretary of Education Visit

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • Check out WYMT’s story about U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his visit to our Promise Neighborhood!

      For more info. about Promise Neighborhood, check out our program page, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

    Partners for Education and CMT Inspire Area Students and Families

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • Registration_03More than 200 parents and students from eastern Kentucky gathered in Berea, Kentucky on Saturday, October 26, to explore educational opportunities and develop their own Map to Success, a program Berea designed to introduce families of high school students to college and career planning.  The event marked the first joint effort between Partners for Education at Berea College and CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION, CMT’s initiative challenging viewers to pursue post-secondary education. CMT has recruited some of music’s biggest names to motivate and inspire viewers with their own education stories, including Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan.

      02_Art_ExhibitThe day-long event began with a showcase featuring art work by students from schools in eastern Kentucky.  Next, families ate lunch alongside college students in Berea College’s dining hall to learn more about their college experience.


      The families toured the campus and attended classes taught by Berea professors. A panel of college students from eastern Kentucky shared their experiences as they moved from high school to college to serve as inspiration for the students and their families.

      Courtney_Cole_04The day wrapped up with CMT Senior Director of Public Affairs Lucia Folk leading the parents of the visiting students in a pledge to support their children’s education and graduation from high school, as well as planning for college and careers.  CMT brought Nashville recording artist Courtney Cole to perform and celebrate the families and their commitments to their children’s education.  A graduate of Belmont University, Cole took time between songs to describe the important role college played in her success.

      Partners for Education at Berea College is devoted to fulfilling Berea College’s commitment to provide educational opportunities for students primarily from Appalachia, who have great promise and limited economic resources. Eight federally funded programs make up Partners for Education and support the college in reaching this initiative. The oldest of these programs at Berea College, Upward Bound, has been serving low income, first generation high school students since 1967. Since that time, the college has also acquired the following federal programs: Educational Talent Search (1991), GEAR UP (1999), Upward Bound Math and Science (1999), Kentucky College Coaches (2010), and Promise Neighborhood (2010). Through these programs, a total of 18 counties in Kentucky are being served. To find out more about Partners for Education at Berea College, contact Charlie Foster at or (859) 985-3857.39_Shelby_Sally_Tour

      CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION is a comprehensive educational campaign that provides an online resource,, to aid CMT viewers in overcoming the most commonly perceived obstacles to furthering education. The site aggregates the multitude of existing, quality information, in one easy-to-navigate, central location, and creates an individualized education action plan for each user.

      CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION is founded on the same education research and insights that led to the creation of Get Schooled, a non-profit organization dedicated to using media, technology, and popular culture to improve attendance. Get Schooled was formed through a partnership between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Advising partners for the CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION campaign include Achieving the Dream, Alltuition, Association of Career & Technical Education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Center for Workforce & Economic Development, American Association of Community Colleges, National Skills Coalition and Skills for America’s Future, and the The Aspen Institute.  To find out more about CMT EMPOWERING EDUCATION, contact Amanda Murphy at or (615) 335-8408.

    Partners for Education Team Wins Chili Cookoff

    Partners for Education Celebrate Berea College Mountain Day

    GEAR UP Interview on WKYT’s “Noon Today”

    Dreama Gentry Wins OAK Award

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • Congratulations to Dreama Gentry, Executive Director of Partners for Education at Berea College, for her OAK Award!  Gentry was one of three recipients of the Council on Postsecondary Education “Outstanding Kentucky Alumnus” Award, which recognized her for her work on a state and national level.


      Gentry and Berea College President Lyle Roelofs pose with the OAK Award.


      To find out more about the OAK Award, visit CPE’s website:


      Congratulations to Dreama and all 2013′s award recipients!


    • Posted on by Victoria Fleury
    • papersA group of Berea College students spent their Saturday afternoon preparing to serve as mentors for middle and high school students in GEAR UP schools that are miles away from Berea’s campus.  The mentors have a plan to reach the students despite the distance—Skype.

      Wide-classPaula Wilder, associate director for Partners for Education at Berea College, prepared the eleven college students for a Skype-mentoring program called Readiness Achievement in a Virtual Environment, or RAVE.   Wilder showed these future mentors how to set up a Skype account and instructed them on what to expect when they start mentoring the 8th and 9th graders.

      The program is a product of Wilder’s observations from working with Berea College’s GEAR UP Partnership.  She noticed the difficulty in recruiting community members and how mentors and students’ availability was one of the biggest challenges to the mentoring program.  “So I started thinking, and I thought that if we started a virtual mentoring program, it would eliminate some of those obstacles in terms of money, and transportation, and logistical issues that went on in the schools,” Wilder said.

      teachingZunilda Lynch, a College Preparation Assistant for GEAR UP, instructed the students on the ins-and-outs of Skype. She started off by showing the mentors where and how to create their Skype account and what specifics they needed to know, such as the format of their usernames.

      Next, Wilder and Missy Wilkins, program director for College for Every Student, talked with the mentors about the Confidentiality Agreement Form. The instructors explained the importance of following the contract. “When you’ve got a mentee that’s in 8th grade and they are communicating with a college student, they may press some issues, maybe ask inappropriate questions,” Wilder said. “I haven’t seen that a lot, but I just want to cover the basics just in case any of [the mentors] have to deal with something like that.”

      Wilder then educated the future mentors about what they should expect from the mentees in the next month or so. Wilder has carefully designed the first few weeks so that both the mentors and the students feel comfortable getting to know each other.  Beyond this initial schedule, the mentors will decide how to spend the thirty minutes allotted to them and their students.  Wilder believes the power of mentoring is in its simplicity. “It’s an older caring adult basically developing a friendship with a younger person,” she said.

      RAVE hopes to help all of the students achieve readiness for college and is always looking for new mentors. The program has about five-thousand students who need mentoring and each one is required to receive a thirty-minute session of mentoring every two weeks, and as Wilder said, “That’s a pretty big challenge.”

      To find out more about RAVE, contact Paula Wilder at (859) 985-3286 or

    Appalachian Kentucky Class of 2018 GEARs UP for College

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • CrowdStageCorbin, KY— More than five-thousand 8th-graders from Appalachian Kentucky gathered Wednesday to commit to high school graduation and college going.  The Berea College Partners for Education event kicked off GEAR UP month in Kentucky and included a motivational message from Hasan Davis, Commissioner of the of Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as musical performances by the Hall Pass Tour, Chad Warrix and Keith Anderson.

      Davis opened the event by vocalizing the expectation that the students will graduate high school and attend college.  He led the crowd of 5,000 8th graders, all dressed in blue “Class of 2018” t-shirts, in chanting, “I commit not to quit!” Davis shared that Berea College will bring the students back together in the spring of 2018 to celebrate their high school graduation and college acceptance.

      HPT-with-Shirts(WEB)Next, The Hall Pass Tour, a high-energy hip-hop group based out of New York City motivated the students to use education to achieve their dreams. Hall Pass Tour selected two local students, Rachel Hayes, 13, from Jackson County, and Bailey Wright, 13, from Garrard County, to join them onstage to open the show.

      “At first I was nervous,” Hayes said, “but I got really relieved when everybody was cheering for me.”  Rachel-Sings(WEB)Hayes was glad to join the event because she wants to see all her classmates succeed. “It’s for GEAR UP, to help you get ready for college and encourage kids to go and get a higher education,” she said.  “Go to college, do what you’ve always wanted to do.  Even if it sounds impossible, do it, no matter what it is.”

      Wright also enjoyed the experience.  “It was just extravagant for me to be able to do that,” Wright said.  “This is by far the biggest crowd I have ever performed in front of, and I’m surprised I was not nervous.  It was wonderful.”

      Bailey-Wright,-GEAR-UP-Kickoff(WEB)Wright said she was glad to participate in the event because she wants to see all her classmates succeed. “GEAR UP is college readiness for kids all over Kentucky, and the nation, actually, but this is GEAR UP Appalachia,” Wright said. “Schools from all over eastern and southern Kentucky came here in Corbin to unite and celebrate being the Class of 2018 and just get ready for college.”

      GU-Kickoff-Student-Questions(WEB)Nashville recording artists Chad Warrix and Keith Anderson then provided the students with a concert experience.  Warrix and Anderson gave students the opportunity to ask questions such as what role college played in their career success.

      GU-Girls(WEB)The Berea College GEAR UP program provides tutoring, mentoring and college planning activities in 19 school districts in 17 south-eastern Kentucky counties.  The goal is to increase high school graduation and college-going rates in these counties. Dreama Gentry, of Berea College, explains “Without intervention, more than 1,000 of these 5,000 8th graders will drop out of high school, and less than 2,200 of these students will go on to college.  It is critical to the economic success of our region that we increase the number of students who graduate from high school and attend college.”

      For more information about Berea College’s GEAR UP partnership, check out the program page at

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