During my visit to Letcher County, I first visited Jenkins Independent Schools. Jenkins Independent Schools comprises two schools: Burdine Elementary and Jenkins Middle-High. Several years ago, at the request of our coordinator, Angela, Children Incorporated “administratively merged” Burdine Elementary into Jenkins Middle-High. They operate as one affiliated site. Angie looks over both schools; they share one Family Resource Youth Services Center. Angie travels between the two regularly.

Burdine Elementary School was damaged during the flood, but officials agree it could have been worse. There were 3 feet of water outside, but all the doors held. About 4 inches of water was pushed in throughout the building. However, the flood did destroy the separate preschool building. Outside, all the fencing and playground equipment was destroyed and swept downstream.

When elementary school children first enroll, many of them are not school-ready. The pandemic years also caused a learning loss. At present, elementary school children are not performing well in state standardized tests. The children are not only struggling academically but also financially. 82.3% come from low-income families.

After a tour of both campuses, Angie and I had a meeting at her high school office. She said the enrollment at the elementary school is about 203. At the middle-high school, it’s about 236. Angie does plan to add more children in the new school year and may include the preschool children, too.

Angie shared that her students are dealing with persistent poverty. 86% come from low-income families. There are no more active coal mines in Jenkins. The best jobs are with the school system or at the small regional hospital. The remainder of available work is small retail or service jobs, such as at dollar stores, gas stations and fast food restaurants.

After the pandemic learning loss, the students are slowly gaining ground. The middle school children are still struggling, but most of the high school students have hit average benchmarks.

Angie likes to do much of her Children Incorporated shopping at Sam’s Club. She will mostly purchase clothing, hygiene items and food. Then she called a student into the room for me to meet, Jacob.* Jacob is polite and very well-spoken. He is ready to graduate from high school and is still thinking about what he wants to do for his future. Jacob said that he is frankly tired of the school routine and is ready for a break and a change. A part of him wants to take a “gap year,” where he can work and get a paycheck. Another part of him wants to plow through and just get college done and behind him. At the time we spoke, Jacob had applied to a couple of places but hadn’t heard back.

Happily, in mid-May Angie called me with the very good news that Jacob had just received an acceptance letter from Alice Lloyd College, which is in adjacent Knott County. The college is tuition-free! The costs are funded by donations from across the country. However, there are costs for room and board, textbooks, fees, and other miscellaneous expenses. Angie asked if she could nominate Jacob for our Higher Education Program. I gave them an extension and they told me to get the application to me soon. I am thrilled for Jacob to have this opportunity.

*Name changed to protect the child.


How do I sponsor a child with Children Incorporated?

You can sponsor a child in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child that is available for sponsorship.


written by Renee Kube

Renée oversees Children Incorporated’s work in the United States – from the rural southeast and southwest to our urban areas in New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. She works closely with our network of more than 100 volunteer coordinators at each affiliated site. For sixteen years, Renée managed our sites in the Appalachian Region before taking her current role in 2010.

» more of Renee's stories