Partners for Education at Berea College

    Knox County Schools and Berea College Launch AmeriCorps ‘PartnerCorps’ Program

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • 08_PartnerCorps_Members_AssembleBarbourville, KY – Sophomores and juniors at Knox Central High convened on Union College’s campus to launch Berea College’s PartnerCorps Program.  PartnerCorps is a new program administered by Partners for Education at Berea College and funded through AmeriCorps.  Twenty-four PartnerCorps members will serve Knox Central High School by providing intensive mentoring to the entire high school population.

      06_Lt_Gov_SpeaksKentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs, Union College President Marcia Hawkins, Union College Vice President of Academic Affairs David Johns, Knox Central High School Principal Tim Melton, Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service Program Officer Andrea Sieloff, and Partners For Education Executive Director Dreama Gentry were all in attendance for the event.  Lt. Gov. Abramson explained to the students that, “each of you will benefit from the PartnerCorps program we are kicking off today, a program aimed at putting mentors in your school who will help you with college guidance.”




      Special guests Nashville recording artists Chad Warrix and Keith Anderson shared their own stories with the students and treated them to an acoustic performance.  Both Warrix and Anderson shared that they earned their college degrees before pursuing careers in music.


      For more information about Berea College’s PartnerCorps program, visit the program page at

    Pulaski Program Pairs Seniors and Freshmen for School Success

    Rockcastle Leaders Work Together to Solve Ropes Challenge

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • Blindfold_Laser_Ropes(WEB)Blindfolded and instructed to rob a bank without touching any laser sensors, Frankie Woodall was out of ideas.  “Without my partners, I probably wouldn’t have made it,” said the 9th-grader from Rockcastle County High School.  But, with the help of 19 other freshmen, he made it through the lasers, which were really ropes, and all the way to the end of the Asbury University Challenge Course’s low ropes activities.

      “I gained the knowledge of how to lead a little bit better,” he said, “but also, it was really fun in the process.”


      The 20 9th-graders started the day by dividing into teams and playing games that required cooperation, creative thinking, and even frenzied gestures when talking was not allowed.  The students then followed their challenge course guides into the ropes area, where they balanced the entire group on a large seesawing platform, helped each other walk along ropes suspended above the ground, and even made it through the crisscrossing ropes that represented laser security at a bank.

      The visit to the challenge course was part of an ongoing leadership training program run by Berea College’s GEAR UP partnership with Rockcastle County schools.  The students were selected by teachers, administrators and community members because they showed promise as future leaders.  Last spring, the group met leaders from other schools participating in Berea College’s GEAR UP Partnership on the college’s campus.  There, they defined leadership and began the process of forming their team at the local level, but also found themselves part of a bigger, regional group of young leaders.

      Linda Stone, the GEAR UP service coordinator for Rockcastle County, said that the training was part of a plan to get the students working together. “This would give us an opportunity to give these kids an experience where maybe they weren’t always comfortable,” she said. “Blindfolding a student who is very comfortable taking control and always being in charge, and then they have to be led, is instrumental to helping create that team and helping them see that everybody has a voice and has the opportunity to lead in that group.

      Juliann Kirby saw her fellow 9th-graders change from her competitors to her teammates over the course of the day.  “At first everybody just assumed it was part of a competition, since there were two teams,” she said.  “But later on you realized that you had to depend upon each other to get by.”

      Ropes_Teamwork(WEB)Kirby said she even appreciated being asked to do something she would not normally do.  “It got everybody out of their comfort zone, having to be with others,” she said.  “And when you’d open your mouth and say something, then you’d always find a way to get some kind of positive feedback.”

      Stone says that the leadership training will be integral in helping meet GEAR UP’s objectives of increasing high school graduation rates and preparing students for college and career success.  “We know that students have a voice.  And they listen to their peers,” she said.  “Their goal will really be to make college something that every student is going to strive for.  Not just the students that everybody thinks will go to college, but all students will be focused on ‘What am I doing when I get out of here?’ ‘Where am I going when I graduate high school?’”

      Woodall feels ready for his new role as a student leader.  “I learned here that it’s okay to speak your mind as a leader, and that it’s easy once you get to know the people around you.” He has come a long way since he was blindfolded and trapped by lasers.  “I really didn’t think I would be cut out to be a leader, but it’s really not that hard, when you think about it.”

      To find out more about GEAR UP in Rockcastle County, contact Linda Stone at (859) 985-5118, or

    PartnerCorps Program Featured on WYMT

    Promise Neighborhood Featured by Kentucky School Boards Association

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • hdrLogo




      Check out this article featuring the Berea College Promise Neighborhood Initiative over at the Kentucky School Boards Association website!

      A Promising Start

      For more information about Promise Neighborhood, visit our program page, or check out our staff directory to find a Partner for Education near you!

    Education Week Profiles PartnerCorps

    New AmeriCorps Service Opportunity in Knox & Leslie Counties

    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • PCRecruitmentDraft_Page_1


      Are you passionate about education, and interested in serving the southeastern region of Kentucky?  Check out a new opportunity that may be just right for you: PartnerCorps is a new initiative that brings together Partners for Education at Berea College, AmeriCorps, Knox County and Leslie County schools.  Forty highly motivated PartnerCorps members will team up in Knox and Leslie county high schools to improve educational outcomes for all students.  To find out more, visit our PartnerCorps page!

    Berea College Receives AmeriCorps School Turnaround Grant

    Madison County GEAR UP Camp in the Richmond Register


    • Posted on by Charlie Foster
    • 23-robthrow(web)

      More than 100 students from Madison, Pulaski, Clay and Knox counties met at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame to listen to the motivational message of Tennessee Titans placekicker Rob Bironas and run through practice drills with him and local football players.  The event was organized by Stars Over Appalachia, a partnership between Berea College’s GEAR UP program and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.


      A Louisville native, Bironas told stories about his path to the NFL and about how important college was to his success in life.  His message was particularly important for the 8th-graders who had all expressed an interest in athletic careers.  “For everybody to believe in you, and to have pride in yourself, do everything at your best,” Bironas said.  “Whether it be school, sports, music—always try to do your best.”


      Bironas’ message to students included a connection between academics and athletics.  “Study hard.  If you’re not studying, if you’re not making the grades, you’re not going to be playing sports,” he said.  “You’re not going to get to college, and that means you won’t be playing college ball, or you won’t be performing at that level.”

      Afterward, the students divided into groups and practiced football drills with Bironas.  Members of the Rockcastle County High School football team helped coach the 8th-graders as they caught passes, took handoffs and hit pads.  “We’re just out here having fun,” Bironas said.  “It’s kind of like the NFL Play 60 program, get out and exercise and have fun.  Do stuff you enjoy doing.”

      Bironas even donated $5,000 to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame to support its educational mission.  “Music is something that I believe helps teach kids how to study,” he said.  “I believe in music and I believe in what it does for kids.”  Bironas also sees many parallels between what he does and music.  “I worked hard growing up.  I had to practice, had to fail.  Determination, hard work, focus, preparation—it’s all seen in the music world, it’s all seen in the classroom.”


      Students also took a tour of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame during the day.  There, they saw more success stories from their home state, which may encourage the students to pursue a career in the music industry.  Robert Lawson, the Executive Director of the Hall of Fame, said that was all part of the plan.  “If they want to be anything in the music business, this lets them know: ‘Hey, I don’t have to be the guy standing in the front of the stage performing.  I can be a roadie, I can be a manager,’” he said.  “It gives them an opportunity to explore all options, not just in music, but in sports and entertainment as well.”

      Paula Wilder, coordinator of Stars Over Appalachia for Berea College’s GEAR UP program, said that the day’s events made the idea behind Stars Over Appalachia a reality.  “It was designed in an attempt to provide students with this unbelievable mentor—a celebrity—and hopefully that will keep them motivated,” she said.  “And they will graduate not only from high school, but they will go on and graduate from college because they’ll follow in that role model’s footsteps.”

      She said that she looked forward to future events being as successful as the day with Bironas.  “I think that today would be an aspiring athlete’s dream.  It’s not every day that you get to have an opportunity to throw around and kick footballs and stuff with someone from the NFL,” she said.  “So what I saw was a bunch of happy kids who were learning a whole lot.  And it was the true definition of mentoring.”

      To find out more about Rob Bironas and his work with youth, visit  To learn more about the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, go to  To find out about a GEAR UP program near you, visit

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