Rudolph Awards Over One Hundred Thousand Dollars in Scholarships
It all started with a phone call last August from Fulton Independent High School Alumnus, Robbie Rudolph, owner of Rudolph’s, Inc., who wanted to give back to his Alma Mata, Fulton High School. With dozens of meetings ranging from special events, speaking engagements, phone calls, and conversations with school personnel, parents, students, and business leaders, Rudolph and his wife, Lisa, are awarding over one hundred thousand dollars in scholarships to high school students and graduates in the four river school districts of Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton Counties and Fulton Independent through the Four River’s Scholarship Program. Over seventy thousand dollars is being awarded to fifty graduates who qualified under the guidelines of the program and needed financial help to continue on to post-secondary education.
Graduates who are awarded scholarships have to agree to continue communications with their respective high school counselors, checking in with them every three months to ensure that they are still enrolled in college and succeeding in their post-secondary pursuits. The counselors will be available to them as they transition from high school into college and on to the work place encouraging them and offering assistance and help during their transition period. “The goal is to be there for them every step of the way,” Rudolph explains. Thirty thousand dollars has gone to sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the four school districts to pay for tuition and textbooks needed to take dual credit courses offered through partnerships with West Kentucky Technical and Community College, Murray State University, Mid-Continent University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
The Four Rivers Scholarship Program, launched in October of 2009, is more than just a scholarship for qualifying seniors in the four schools. It is a comprehensive program designed to prepare students for post secondary training, while removing financial barriers; providing support while in training; and assisting in the transition to a career, hopefully in this region. The program begins with Rudolph’s Readers, a reading program that includes a free book for every child in grades K-4 provided by Rudolph prior to Christmas Break. A Career Day at each elementary school for fifth and sixth graders follows in the spring enabling students to explore the different types of careers available in the region and includes business and industry partners in each of the four school districts. A trip to the two vocational schools that serve the school districts help seventh and eighth graders build knowledge of skills needed to pursue their career interests. Dual credit courses, college visits and in depth assistance on financial aid are provided to high school students as they prepare for post secondary training by school and university counselors, Doug Cook of KHEAA and their own English teachers.
“Mr. Rudolph has also worked with individual school districts to expand existing programs such as Fulton Independent’s Bilingual Buddies Program, a program that has high school students teaching primary students Spanish. He has also provided books and worked with us to expand the curriculum to weekly classes for our elementary students,” stated Dianne Owen, superintendent, Fulton Independent Schools.” He has also funded a dual credit EMT program and purchased textbooks for our new Bulldog Academy classes.”
Dual credit classes are being offered in partnership with the four partner colleges using on-line courses, college professors, adjunct professors, and district faculty who are qualified to teach dual credit courses. Over 970 hours of dual credit courses are being offered to 198 students in the four districts schools through academies such as the Falcon Academy and the Bulldog Academy or through on-site partnership classes with WKCTC at Carlisle County or through dual credit courses offered through the Fulton County Area Technical School or the Mayfield Area Technical School which serve the students in the four school districts. “We are fortunate that all of these programs combined are allowing our students to get college credit and become college ready at the same time. Our students are afforded more opportunities than they have been in the past and we are grateful to Robbie and Lisa Rudolph for supporting education in the four rivers region,” state Carlisle County superintendent, Dr. Keith Shoulders.
The dual credit classes and the college textbooks are funded through Rudolph, the Gear Up Grant, the WKCTC Mary Jo Young Scholarship and other business partners. Students can take from 12-21 hours of college credit free through the academies and/or the area technical schools. Each school has designed its own academy to fit the needs of their students. Courses as varied as Culinary and Finance at Hickman County to EMT certification at Fulton Independent to Certified Nursing Assistant training at Fulton County Area Technical School are offered along side standard classes such as ENG 101, ENG 102, Algebra 1 and Psychology. Carlisle County students are offered dual credit classes at their school or can choose to go on-campus at WKCTC to take courses there. Fulton County students take on-line classes or walk across campus and take dual credit classes at the Fulton County Technical Center.
“He has given our kids great hope that they can go to college or learn a trade;” states Kenny Wilson, Hickman County superintendent,” not only our seniors, but the other students who are coming up behind them. During these tough economic times, he has provided funding for dual credit and has bought 56 seniors their textbooks for these classes at Hickman County.” Dennis Bledsoe, Fulton County superintendent, agrees. “As a new superintendent to this area, I am impressed by the cooperation of the four districts working together to advance the educational and economic needs of our students. The atmosphere is very professional, yet caring and family like.”
The program is overseen by the Four Rivers Foundation Board chaired by Jeff Campbell, organizer of the Fulton initiative, Let’s Paint the Town. The board has businessmen, educators, and citizens from each of the four school districts who have volunteered to serve and work together with the school districts to meet the goals of the program. “I am so very proud to Chair the Four River’s Scholarship Board and to help Robbie and Lisa Rudolph in their quest to offer post secondary education to the kids in this region of Western Kentucky. This program offers the hope to break the cycle of poverty in our region and to prepare young people with education and training to be viable and sought after in our future workforce. This program is one of several strategies being deployed to revitalize our area,” said Jeff Campbell, Chairman of the Foundation Board that was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph.
Rudolph continues to work with the four superintendents and their administrative staffs to create a model designed to train graduates with the skills needed to revitalize the four rivers region in an effort to promote economic growth and development. “It is a chicken and the egg question,” stated Rudolph. “I believe we need to grow a trained work force and then we can attract industry to the area and have economic growth.” Whichever does come first, it is evident that students in the four school districts are definitely benefiting from Rudolph’s desire to give back to his school.