Gov. Matt Bevin’s office announced June 7 that the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has approved a $500,000 grant for the Leadership Kentucky Foundation to help create a new leadership program targeting young professionals in the Kentucky Appalachian corridor, named BRIGHT Kentucky. BRIGHT Kentucky is made possible by the ARC grant and private funding from the Whitaker Foundation and others.
According to a statement from the Governor’s office, BRIGHT Kentucky will fill the need for a local leadership development program focused on the region. A major focal point of the program will be to help participants fully understand local economic context and to build robust skill sets in communication, collaboration, consensus building, visioning, and community engagement. Participants will complete the program with the skills necessary to think long-term and strategically to build upon the strengths of their communities and lead the region to a more prosperous future.
“Eastern Kentucky is full of incredible promise and potential, and the region’s people are truly its greatest natural resource,” said Bevin. “Leadership Kentucky provides exceptional training and support for the Commonwealth’s rising stars, and I am confident that the BRIGHT program will help train up the next generation of leaders for Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky. I am appreciative of ARC, DLG (Department of Local Governments), the Whitaker Foundation, Leadership Kentucky and other partners for supporting this important program.”
BRIGHT Kentucky, according to the statement, is to be coordinated by the Leadership Kentucky Foundation, Inc. (now in its 35th year), is designed to build the capacity of next-generation leaders (average age 20-40) in the Appalachian region of Kentucky to innovate, collaborate, and advance community and economic development. BRIGHT Kentucky will engage bright, entrepreneurial minds from all sectors and regions to offer non-partisan, ethical leadership training, expanded networks, and mentors designed especially for residents of the 54 Kentucky counties of the ARC.
“Transformation of a region requires the development of new, young leadership,” said Sandy Dunahoo, commissioner of the Department for Local Government, responsible for administering ARC funding. “Building on the success of Leadership Kentucky, BRIGHT will target emerging leaders at a young age to inspire them toward developing a new vision for the Appalachia of tomorrow.”
Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers has long advocated for the ARC funding that makes such a difference to programming in the area and said he is excited to see ARC come together with local businesses and philanthropists to create BRIGHT Kentucky.
“BRIGHT Kentucky will help equip our upcoming leaders with the tools they need to further develop our rural communities in Eastern Kentucky,” said Rogers, who supported the ARC grant. “Our best days are ahead of us and this program will ensure that rising leaders are prepared to work together to generate new ideas and opportunities for our stellar workforce and our communities.”
The grant includes a significant support from the Whitaker Foundation as well as other private and corporate donors who care deeply about the future success of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky native and Leadership Kentucky 2018 board chair, Elmer K. Whitaker, believes for the region to continue to grow, diversify industries, and prosper, young leaders need access to strong, non-partisan leadership development programs that encourage participants to stay in the region and make a difference in their hometowns.
Whitaker shares, “Working hard is important, but sometimes that quality alone does not ensure success. It’s the convergence of hard work, determination, and opportunity. Sometimes you just need a chance, someone to believe in you, and help with gaining the necessary skills to improve your chances. Achieving begins with believing.”
The Leadership Kentucky Foundation and its programs are led by Janice Way, President of the Leadership Kentucky Foundation. Working with community leaders like Whitaker and others in Eastern Kentucky, Way is enthusiastic to get the program underway.
“We are so grateful for the leadership of Governor Bevin, Congressman Rogers, and the ARC for supporting this grant and the private donors who came together to provide matching funds and make BRIGHT Kentucky possible,” she said.
The application deadline for the program is June 28. Applications are available online now. To learn more about BRIGHT Kentucky session dates and locations as well as application information visit, www.LeadershipKY.org/programs/BRIGHT-Kentucky-5/.