Tag Archives: coal country

Limited Housing for Students in Hazard

Perry County Central High School is located in the city of Hazard in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coalfield. Hazard, once a nineteenth-century settlement with a booming coal mining community, is nestled in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. The geographic isolation of Perry County has led to deep-rooted preservation of this region’s rich culture; but this has also contributed to economic stagnation over the years.

Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing.

Poverty, drug abuse, and a lack of health insurance are just a few of the problems that this part of Kentucky faces, and they are due to limited employment opportunities and the dwindling coal market. Though many Hazard families struggle, life for some has started to improve, as Perry County has taken steps to incite new economic growth. Yet one major issue still plagues low-income families: a lack of availability of affordable housing.

Students without homes

sponsor a child in kentucky

Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community.

Founded in 1995 as the result of the consolidation of two other local high schools, our affiliated project Perry County Central High School is a large school with an enrollment of around 900 students. 72 percent of the students there qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). On a visit to the school, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Tina. Tina told Shelley that she feels she is perfect for her job because she grew up very poor in a large family with thirteen siblings. She, therefore, understands the issues that many of the families in the community are dealing with when it comes to living in poverty.

Tina explained to Shelley that at Perry County Central High School, there is not much of a middle class; as Tina described it, “There is no in-between – you either have money or you don’t.” Families that do not have steady or sufficient incomes often find themselves without adequate housing. As a result, there is a large homeless population among the students at the school.

A very long wait list

According to Tina, Hazard has very few low-income apartments for families in the community. There are about 150 of these apartments in the whole town, so the waiting list to get in is very long. This means that many families have no choice but to find temporary housing arrangements, which is not ideal for students who require stability while they’re attending school.

The students who Tina considers to be homeless are not necessarily living on the streets or in shelters; some of them are staying on couches at friends’ houses, or staying with teachers or relatives. Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter. Tina says that at the end of the day, even some students who do have homes to go to often beg to go home with friends or teachers, because their home life is unstable – or even unsafe.

Currently, the high school has six students who are living in a homeless shelter.

A lack of transportation

Another great area of need for the students of Perry County Central High School is transportation. Many students want to work part-time jobs. In these cases, school buses can be re-routed to drop them off at work after school – but then they have no way to get home. Students often end up walking home, which can be dangerous and exhausting for them.

Transportation is also an issue for students who want to attend the local college, Hazard Community and Technical College, to get a jump-start on higher education courses. There is a transportation service through the college that picks students up and drops them off every day, but it costs $5.00 a day – or approximately $100.00 per month. Most students cannot afford this service. Tina wishes that students who want to go to college in the area could be provided with free transportation.

***

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.

Dressing the Part of a Professional

Buckhorn School is located in Perry County in the Eastern Kentucky Coal Field. This region is known for its lumber and coal industries, which sustained the people of this beautiful, very rural and isolated part of Appalachia for generations.  Unfortunately, however, those industries are now waning, and there are few businesses in the area today. High unemployment and transportation problems are also major setbacks for most residents.

Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too.

Founded in 1902, Buckhorn School has a dedicated staff of teachers and administrators that have worked hard to create a nurturing environment where every student has the opportunity to obtain a quality education. This is especially valuable for students whose families are living in poverty.

As the only kindergarten through twelfth-grade school in Perry County, Buckhorn School has an enrollment of approximately 200 students. Our sponsorship program helps to provide children there with basic needs throughout the year. For many of Buckhorn’s high school students, support from sponsors means that they are receiving quality professional clothing and shoes that they may use for future job interviews.

Shopping for themselves

sponsoring a child changes their life.

Judy, who is pictured here with Shelley Oxenham, encourages her students to do their best.

While visiting Buckhorn School, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with Judy, the school’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) Coordinator and Children Incorporated Volunteer Coordinator. Judy has worked at the school in various positions for twenty years, and she has been the FRYSC Coordinator there since October of 2017.

During their meeting, Judy explained to Shelley that the Children Incorporated program has allowed her to purchase clothes and shoes for sponsored children, which has been especially helpful for her high school students, who otherwise might never have new outfits to wear. Since they are among the older students in our sponsorship program, instead of shopping for them, Judy meets the high school-aged sponsored kids at a local clothing store and lets them pick out their own clothes and shoes. While shopping, Judy encourages them to choose items that they may wear not only to school, but also to professional settings when they are seeking employment opportunities after they graduate.

“Professional Day” for students

Judy explained to Shelley that she feels that preparing seniors for obtaining employment after graduation is about more than just wearing the right clothes. Just as Judy does, the school administration recognizes the importance of preparing kids with the tools they need to succeed, too. Every year, the school hosts a “Professional Day” where seniors are asked to wear their most professional outfit to school, and they are given tips on how to dress appropriately in their business attire. The seniors also receive help creating their resumes, they learn how to search for jobs online, and they carry out practice interviews so that they may feel more confident in pursuing employment on their own.

***

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.

Focusing on Character Education

Although our affiliated project Dorton Elementary School in Pike County, Kentucky is an older school that has been around since 1929, the staff and administrators there have implemented progressive tactics to ensure that our sponsored and unsponsored children are receiving a well-rounded education that includes learning valuable ethical lessons. On a trip to Pike County to visit with our Volunteer Coordinator Alisa, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, was told about the school’s efforts to not only teach children academics, but to also incorporate character education.

“Students spend much of their young lives in classrooms. This time in school is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the core values upon which character is formed.”

What is character education?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.”

“Character education is a learning process that enables students and adults in a school community to understand, care about and act on core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others. Upon such core values, we form the attitudes and actions that are the hallmark of safe, healthy and informed communities that serve as the foundation of our society.

“Students spend much of their young lives in classrooms. This time in school is an opportunity to explain and reinforce the core values upon which character is formed.”

Thanks to Alisa and the Family Resource Center, Dorton Elementary School has made a commitment to implement character education while students are young, and oftentimes in need of guidance as they develop. For Alisa, who receives very little help to support children living in poverty outside of our sponsorship program, character education allows her to have an impact on students that will help them grow, because they might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about these important topics.   

Beyond academics

While they were meeting together, Alisa described to Renée exactly how she conducts her character education courses. She explained that many children at the school come from very poor homes. Their parents are often uneducated or absent from their children’s lives due to the rising drug problem in the area; so they aren’t around to teach them valuable ethical lessons.

In order to address these issues, Alisa runs small groups for her elementary students to discuss good manners, kindness, and proper study habits. For the older children in the upper grades, topics such as puberty and bullying are addressed. Alisa also works on drug awareness programs throughout the school year. She hosts a luau in the gym, with a DJ, food, the game cornhole, ping-pong, and other games so that children not only learn about good habits for everyday life, but they also have the chance to put good habits into practice in a fun and safe environment.

***

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.

Art for the Soul and the Mind

When we think about what constitutes a well-rounded education for a child, what might first pop into our heads are academic subjects like math, science, and English. The arts, though, can have just as much of a significant impact on a child’s development, character, and personality as other core subjects. This is exactly why our volunteer coordinator at our affiliated project Belfry Elementary School is working hard to bring an arts camp to children enrolled in our program.

Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

On a recent visit to Pike County, Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our Volunteer Coordinator Eugenia, who told Renée about her desire to create a Belfry-area summer arts camp for the students at her school and others nearby. She explained that in previous years, kids have attended a local church’s vacation Bible school during summer break. The church is no longer offering the camp, however, due to a lack of finances.

Eugenia is concerned that, without activities to keep them occupied in the summer, children won’t be safe at home alone while their parents are working. She is also worried that, without the school lunches that they usually receive during the school year, students from impoverished families will go hungry in the summer months. In addition, Eugenia feels that an art camp would not only be a good way to keep kids busy so they don’t get into trouble, but art could also encourage their mental, social, and emotional development.

Why art matters

Eugenia with one of our sponsored children

Art and creativity can benefit children in a variety of ways. Holding a paintbrush, crayon, or marker helps a child to develop their fine motor skills, as well as improves their ability to problem-solve. Drawing and painting can promote patience and determination for kids, because it gives them a task that they feel driven to complete. Since art is also a vehicle for emotion, children can work through ideas and issues when they exercise their creativity. Many children in our program have witnessed abuse or addiction, or they face depression and anxiety in their own lives or in the lives of those that surround them. Art can help them to express their feelings, which is crucial for them as they deal with past and present traumas, or other adversity in their lives.

A coordinator who goes above and beyond

Eugenia’s work goes beyond developing a summer arts program in order to support our sponsored and unsponsored children. She also ensures that the kids in her care are receiving exactly what they need in order to attend classes. She sends a letter home at the start of each school year asking parents for their kids’ clothes and shoe sizes. She also inquires as to what kinds of school supplies they would like to have. Then she shops for the students.

She also partners with a local hair salon, “Just Teasin’,” so that all the children enrolled in our program get haircuts so they may start the new school year looking their very best. During the holidays, for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, Eugenia uses sponsorship funds to provide vouchers that families can use to purchase food at a local grocery store, and have a nice meal together to celebrate.

Before her visit was over, Renée let Eugenia know that Children Incorporated could provide support for her summer arts program from our Hope In Action Fund. Just as Eugenia is passionate about using art to help kids succeed, we at Children Incorporated also feel that art and creativity are an important part of a child’s education. Through academics and art, we hope that children are able to reach their full potential. With the support of our sponsors and donors to supplement special programs, kids will have the chance to overcome the difficult obstacles they face living in poverty.

***

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.

Businesses Supporting Students

Pike County Central High School is the largest of five high schools in Pike County, Kentucky, with an enrollment of approximately 720 students. On a recent trip to Pike County, our U.S. Projects Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, met with our volunteer coordinator at the school, whose name is also Shelley. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is the Youth Services Center (YSC) coordinator for the school; she describes the YSC as a safe space for all students of any economic background where they may freely come and go without judgment when they are in need of a new clothing item, shoes, school supplies, hygiene items, or a snack to eat.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that the children who are enrolled in our program – kids that she says are the most impoverished at the school – can visit her office for items they need without feeling embarrassed that their parents are unable to afford the school supplies they lack. Included among these necessities are book bags, notebooks, and socks.

Both businesses and our sponsorship program are helping children at Pike County Central High School.

Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley says that with the sponsorship funds she receives every month, she especially likes to buy “school logo” clothes for her students; they help kids to feel like they fit in with the rest of their classmates. In the fall, sponsored and unsponsored children each receive a hoodie, a long-sleeved shirt, and sweatpants; and in the spring, another long-sleeved shirt and a couple of T-shirts. She supplements the clothes with hygiene items like soap and shampoo, or other special necessities, depending on what each student’s particular needs are, throughout the school year.

A unique place 

During the visit, our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley explained that her school is unique as a result of its close proximity to Pikeville, the county seat or governmental center of the county. Since the school is nearby, several Pikeville businesses support its resource center with food and clothing drives, which are a great help in keeping supplies stocked all year long. When she can, she tries to share with the other high schools in the area, like Phelps and East Ridge, which do not have as much local support due to their remote locations. Our Volunteer Coordinator Shelley is hopeful that, with the recent uptick in businesses and factories moving into the area, there is potential not only for more jobs for graduating seniors from Pike County Central High School and their parents, but also for more support for the center from local businesses.

Why small businesses help

Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

Businesses choose to help support kids in need for a variety of reasons. For starters, there are tax benefits for doing so. Donating to a qualified tax-exempt organization that falls under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code means that a business may deduct these contributions in its tax return. There are also marketing opportunities for businesses to advertise the philanthropic donations they make; non-profits may, in turn, publicize support as well. Additional possibilities for networking with new potential clients may present themselves, too, as a result of a business-charity partnership.

Working with charities may also offer volunteer opportunities for a business’ employees; and many companies offer matching gifts programs for employees to participate in. Despite the many benefits for businesses themselves, however, business owners oftentimes support charities simply because they want to give back to their own communities. Just like us, they, too, believe in the value of helping children succeed, and in giving them the chance that they deserve to have education, hope, and opportunity in their lives.

***

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.

Grandparents As Parents

Bevins Elementary School lies in the easternmost region of Kentucky, in beautiful Pike County. This area was once a prosperous and thriving one, when its coal and timber industries were booming. The mountain passes and rugged terrain, while suitable for mining and logging, have effectively blocked other types of industries from settling in this part of the state. Thus, as mines closed, those who had spent their lives working underground could not find new employment opportunities above.

Thankfully for the students of Bevins Elementary School, the faculty there not only strive to provide a safe learning environment, but they also work to support grandparents who have found themselves raising kids again – but as seniors this time.

Today, poverty plagues this region, and adults are not the only ones experiencing the debilitating impact of its effects. Thankfully for the students of Bevins Elementary School, the faculty there not only strive to provide a safe learning environment, but they also work to support grandparents who have found themselves raising kids again – but as seniors this time.

A passionate coordinator

On a recent trip to Eastern Kentucky, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, visited with the Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) coordinator at Bevins Elementary School, Sandy, who is also our Volunteer Coordinator. The school is located in a very small community called Sidney, west of Belfry. With an enrollment of only 227 children, the school is one of the smallest schools in the Belfry district.

Upon meeting Sandy, Renée observed that she takes a great deal of pride in her job. Her excellent work is demonstrated in her dedication to further aiding the children she serves through our programs. In fact, last year, Sandy was nominated by her principal as a contender for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators’ annual Fred Award. The award – inspired by Fred Shea, the postman who is the subject of Mark Sanborn’s national bestseller, The Fred Factor – recognizes non-administrative staff, students, and volunteers statewide whose daily efforts are deemed extraordinary and integral to a positive learning atmosphere in their school communities.

We support children in need in Eastern Kentucky.

Renée pictured with one of our sponsored children at Bevins Elementary School

Sandy is impassioned by FRYSC’s work to remove the “non-cognitive barriers” to children’s success in school by providing them with clothes, shoes, school supplies, and hygiene items throughout the academic year. She also works closely with the other coordinators in the middle and high schools in the Belfry district to collaborate on outreach efforts between older and younger siblings in the same families.

This is in order to ensure that all children are receiving the basic needs that are so important to their academic success. When it comes to working with our sponsored and unsponsored children, Sandy explained to Renée, her primary focus is always to obtain clothing and shoes, as well as school supplies. Sandy considers each child’s individualized personal needs upon selecting her purchases.

Training for grandparents

As Sandy discussed how she would like to see the resource center develop, Renée learned about a county program to be launched by FRYSC coordinators this school year called Grandparents As Parents (GAP) – a program for which financial assistance is greatly needed. There is a high percentage of grandparents and great-grandparents raising children in Pike County, sometimes due to parents passing, and other times because parents are incapable of caring for their own children as a result of problems with drug abuse. Many require support with regard to issues such as recognizing the signs of bullying; training on how to monitor kids’ social media use; and how to utilize technology for themselves for job training, and to check online for academic performance and behavior notes for the children in their care. The workshops will also touch on budgeting, and proper sleep and nutrition; and attendees will be provided with literature for reference.

After listening to Sandy speak so passionately about helping these grandparents – many of whom are living in poverty, and never expected to be raising their grandchildren – Renée informed Sandy that Children Incorporated would be happy to provide funding for this special program through our Hope In Action Fund. This fund is maintained for instances just as this. Now Sandy can rest assured that grandparents in her community will receive the support they need to raise their grandchildren to be the most successful students they can be.

 ***

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.