The University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, serving all of the colleges of the University and the 54 Appalachian counties of Kentucky, announces the UK Tomorrow Corps.
In keeping with the land grant mission of the University of Kentucky “promoting diversity, inclusion, economic development, and human well-being” in the Commonwealth, the UK Appalachian Center will draw on the skills of students from across the University to partner with communities in the 54 Appalachian counties of Kentucky to support the well-being of children, who are the region’s future. As an educational institution, a fitting way for UK to contribute to current discussions of a sustainable future in eastern Kentucky is through educational engagement, with UK students from all colleges participating in a long-term mentorship cycle in the region.
The UK Tomorrow Corps program will provide summer employment and professional support for UK students tutoring K-12 students in math and literacy skills, in partnership with local libraries, public schools, and community organizations. This initiative will help young Appalachians retain and gain skills through the summer, and work toward their long-term educational goals. UK Tomorrow Corps students can be from any major, and will receive training through the academic year to succeed as tutors in the summertime. Student interns from the College of Social Work will rotate between tutoring sites to help students and their families – in collaboration with public school Family Resource Centers – connect with available public services and resources. Appalachian Kentucky is increasingly multicultural, and the tutoring services requested by community members will be available in multiple languages. The UK Tomorrow Corps interns will support community food security by assisting libraries and other community organizations to apply to be USDA summer feeding sites and by helping to organize food backpack programs in association with the tutoring sites. USDA summer food security resources are already available but underutilized, and the UK Appalachian Center has been supporting farmers’ markets and other community sites’ enrollment in the summer feeding program.
The UK Appalachian Center began its summer internship program in 2012, and it has been growing each year. UK students from the Appalachian counties find these internship opportunities especially useful, enabling them to be paid in the summer to work with organizations in their home region that further their own professional goals, but these internships are available to all UK undergraduate and graduate students. UK Appalachian interns have supported the work of the New Opportunity School for Women, Kentucky Riverkeeper, Lend-a-Hand Center, Owsley County Farm to School and Community Gardening Center, health departments, the Ashland Employment and Training office, public school teacher training institutes, local history museums, STAY youth leadership institutes, and other programs.
The UK Appalachian Center offers 100- and 200-hour summer paid internships; those are all direct service hours with community organizations (travel time is not covered, but communities have sometimes offered housing options to those not living in the region). Some of the internships are sponsored by donors who want to invest directly in the future of young Kentuckians.
The UK Appalachian Center facilitates partnerships between students and faculty across the University and community members in Appalachian Kentucky. Over 40 faculty members from nine colleges at UK participate in the Appalachian Studies Program, offering an undergraduate minor and certificate and collaborating on scholarly research on and in Appalachia, and the Graduate Appalachian Research Community is very active as well. The Appalachian Center encourages a global perspective on the region, and hosts Visiting Scholars, postdoctoral fellows, and Fulbright researchers from around the world who engage in comparative discussions of sustainable futures in mountain regions. This is a critical juncture for Appalachian communities, as public discussions like SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) look to the region’s many assets and efforts underway to plan for the future. Residents of the region are more aware of challenges and possibilities than anyone, and the UK Appalachian Center works to facilitate respect for diverse and inclusive perspectives and knowledge bases in university/community partnerships.
At the request of community members, the UK Appalachian Center organized a coalition in 2012 broadly representing interdisciplinary faculty and students and state and community health care, social work, school and religious organizations to better serve relatives raising relatives, which describes a growing number of households in Kentucky. Several initiatives stemmed from that conversation, including the UK Tomorrow Corps, which is intended to support not only K-12 students through summer tutoring, but also their caregivers. The interns will work with the staff at community libraries and other public sites at their invitation to complement and extend their service to the public through the UK Tomorrow Corps, rather than duplicating or imposing efforts. This program was piloted in the summer of 2014; it was fully subscribed with families requesting tutoring, and the library staff requested future interns to increase the tutoring services.
UK undergraduate and graduate students in any college or discipline are invited to apply to join the UK Tomorrow Corps summer 2015 cohort. For more information, please contact the UK Appalachian Center: Dr. Ann Kingsolver, Director (firstname.lastname@example.org), Shane Barton, Program Coordinator (email@example.com), or call Erin Norton, Department Manager, 257-4852.