Partners for Education at Berea College

    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

    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!


    • Posted on by Victoria Fleury
    • Jackson County grandparents attended a day-long, “Grandparents as Parents” event hosted by the Berea College Promise Neighborhood Initiative at the Jackson County Extension Office on October 23.  The event focused on helping them understand their rights, custody standing, and legal guardianship status, with special instruction in understanding children’s development and dealing with children coming from substance abuse.  Grandparents asked questions and discussed challenges they faced as primary caregivers.  The event also gave grandparents information regarding adolescent behavior and how to provide positive intervention for difficult transitions children may face.

      The goal of this and future events is to provide care for the caregiver.  Linda Potter, Parent Engagement Specialist for Jackson County, and community partners wanted to make sure these grandparents know how appreciated they are for stepping up to care for their grandchildren. Family Court Judge Gene Clark noted just how much difference grandparents make. “If it were not for grandparents,” he said, “my court system might shut down.  These kids have to go somewhere, and if the grandparents or other family does not step up, or are unable and unwilling to take care of them, they’re going to have to go to foster care….and quite frankly all of my foster care beds are full.”  He said that providing help to these grandparents is essential to benefit the next generation of children who, through parental substance abuse or other reasons, have no one to take care of them except these family members.

      Other presenters at the event included Carole Gnatuk, a child development specialist from the University of Kentucky; Doug Burnham, director of the Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children Training Project; Kimberley Collett, supervisor at the Department for Community Based Services; Linda Potter, Parent Engagement Specialist for Promise Neighborhood; and Neal Broadus, Dropout Prevention/Parent Involvement Coordinator for the Jackson County Public Schools.

      Future monthly or bi-monthly group meetings will continue to provide assistance to grandparents raising their grandchildren.   In these meetings they can share their experiences as well as receive legal advice regarding custody, adoption and foster parent issues.  For more information about future meetings and topics contact Linda Potter at (606) 287-7505 or

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