From the Paducah Sun
The Kentucky School Boards Association will honor a Murray businessman and four school districts for creating a program that helps all students have the opportunity to receive a postsecondary education.
Robbie Rudolph, owner of Rudolph Tire, collaborated earlier this year with Fulton County Schools, Fulton Independent School District, Carlisle County Schools and Hickman County Schools to create the Four Rivers Scholarship Foundation.
Rudolph, a member of Fulton High School’s Class of 1973, said he started the program to build a better workforce through education in the area. He hopes the higher-quality workforce will attract industry to western Kentucky.
“We’re guaranteeing every child can get postsecondary education,” Rudolph said. “To make sure no child is denied on the basis of money, we have a scholarship program. We gave away 50 scholarships last year.”
To ready students from the four districts for a two- or four-year university, or trade school, Rudolph said the scholarship foundation works on all grade levels. From kindergarten to fourth grade, children receive free books. Fifth- and sixth-graders attend a career day to learn of career possibilities and to develop goals and interests. Seventh- and eighth-graders visit area technical education centers to see what they must learn if they pursue a trade. High school students visit area colleges and universities and have opportunities to take high school courses to earn college credits.
The school board association will recognize the scholarship foundation with its Public Education Achieves in Kentucky Award at 10:30 a.m. today at the Fulton High School gymnasium. Students will demonstrate their involvement in the program starting at 8 a.m. at the same location.
Nearly half of 400 juniors and seniors in all four districts are enrolled in dual credit courses for a total of 970 hours, according to the association. The dual-credit program saved students $97,000 in tuition and fees. The total cost for the program is $150,000 per year, with nearly half going toward scholarships. The program has distributed nearly 1,000 books.
Wendell Benningfield, assistant superintendent for Fulton Independent Schools, serves as director of the scholarship foundation. He said the program, founded two years ago, also offers mentoring for students and Spanish language education in early grades.
“Right now, we have the 50 students on scholarships,” Benningfield said. “We’re tracking each student to make sure they are doing well academically, and we’ll intervene to eliminate blocks to their education. Our goal is to ensure they not only get into a school but are on track towards a career.”
Dennis Bledsoe, superintendent at Fulton County, said the program also provides ACT preparation for juniors and is working to improve dual credit opportunities in college prerequisite courses. About 15 to 20 students also are taking classes at West Kentucky Community & Technical College. He credits the program for raising standards and better preparing students for college or careers.
Keith Shoulders, superintendent at Carlisle County Schools, credited Rudolph for promoting education to ensure students have employment skills and a better chance to remain in the region.
“I think the PEAK award brings a sense of pride to the area and shows we’ve been recognized at the state level for a worthwhile program that helps education,” Shoulders said. “Maybe it would be worth replicating in other areas of the state.”
Kenny Wilson, superintendent at Hickman County, said he was excited to be a part of a great program helping students, and thanked Rudolph and others for their efforts.
Contact Alan Reed, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8658.
From the Fulton Leader
The Kentucky School Boards Association will present officials with the Four Rivers Scholarship Foundation, Fulton Independent, Carlisle County, Fulton County and Hickman County schools the Public Education Achieves in Kentucky (PEAK) Award today at the Fulton Independent gymnasium following a demonstration of the districts’ award-winning program, the Four Rivers Scholarship Program.
The Four Rivers Scholarship Foundation began two years ago to provide students in these four school districts with financial assistance, career counseling and ACT preparation to help them become successful adults and to promote economic growth in the region.
Since then, the program has grown and provides career exploration and counseling beginning in middle school; sponsors an annual Christmas book giveaway for students in kindergarten through fourth grade; holds annual career fairs with a local focus; and offers dual-credit courses to students to provide a head start on college.
Fulton Independent Superintendent Dianne Owen, in whose district the program originated, said the total annual cost for the four districts is about $150,000, with $70,000 going directly to scholarships.
The remaining funds are used to support the dual-credit programs, textbooks, transportation, registration fees, books and staff. The dual-credit tuition is supplemented by federal GEAR Up grant funds and local business and individual donors.
Of the 400 juniors and seniors in the four districts, 198 of them are currently taking a total of 970 dual-credit hours, with an annual savings of future postsecondary costs to parents of $97,000. The dual credits are offered in partnership with Murray State University, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Mid-Continent College and the University of Tennessee at Martin.
In its two years, the program also has given away more than 1,000 books, has held two annual career fairs and has awarded 50 scholarships to students who otherwise may not have been able to overcome financial barriers to continue their education.
Hickman County High School English teacher Ann Jewell wrote in her letter nominating the program that she had never seen a program with a greater direct impact on students’ lives.
“Our students will be placed on a track of success from the start (of grade school) with the belief that college is just another branch of the basic educational experience,” she wrote.
Students and educators from all four districts will be on hand to discuss the various aspects of the program. Representatives from all four partner colleges will also attend.
School board members and city and county officials from all four communities will be in attendance, as will individuals and business and community partners who have supported the program.
The PEAK Award was established in 1997 by the KSBA Board of Directors to bring greater attention to noteworthy efforts by public schools aimed specifically at enhancing the learning skills of students, and to promote the positive impact of public elementary and secondary education in the state.