*Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.


Located in the heart of Kentucky’s Eastern Coal Region, Letcher County holds the unfortunate distinction of having the second-largest unemployment rate in Kentucky.

“Brittney said there is not a problem with bullying, and all the kids are open, friendly, and accepting of one another — much like the openness that the actual school building offers.”

Coal from this region once fueled factories, powered locomotives, and heated millions of homes. However, the coal industry, which once employed the majority of the area’s workforce, has sharply declined due to automation and the increased use of other fuels.

Lack of employment opportunities has resulted in widespread poverty, along with associated socioeconomic issues such as drug abuse, obesity, and domestic abuse issues. Fortunately, for many impoverished families in this community, West Whitesburg Elementary School offers their children a well-rounded education in a school environment where kids support one another in positive ways.

A different kind of school

“West Whitesburg was built in the late 1960s during the ‘open school’ movement,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“This meant no walls separated classrooms, with the idea that students would learn creatively, and teachers would collaborate. Whereas most open schools are very loud and noisy, West Whitesburg is not. Partitions were put up many years ago, and teachers work especially hard here on ‘indoor voices versus outdoor voices.”

West Whitesburg Elementary School serves 390 children in grades pre-kindergarten through 5th.

The school has an open layout, which is not very typical of public schools in the U.S.

The school itself shares its grounds with Whitesburg Middle School. The two schools abut one another and have separate entrances, administration, faculty, and staff.

Learning more from Britteny

While visiting the school, our U.S. Director of Programs, Renée Kube, met with the Family Resource Youth Services Center Coordinator, Britteny, and her assistant, Donna. Together, they also run our sponsorship program.

During their meeting, Renée had a chance to ask Britteny more about the students in attendance at this very different kind of school.

“When I asked about the school’s culture and dynamics, Brittney’s face lit up. The population is mixed between some of the more well-to-do families, middle-income families, and those who live in the public housing complex across from the school,” said Renée.

“Brittney said there is not a problem with bullying, and all the kids are open, friendly, and accepting of one another — much like the openness that the actual school building offers.”


How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.


Education, Stories of Hope, Kentucky

written by Shelley Callahan

Shelley is the Director of Development for Children Incorporated. She is also the lead social correspondent, regularly contributing insights through the Stories of Hope blog series. Sign up for Stories of Hope to receive weekly email updates about how your donations are changing the lives of children in need.

» more of Shelley's stories