The Promise Zone has benefited greatly from its partnership with the Center for Rural Development. How’s that you ask? First and foremost, the Center is leading the charge to bring high speed internet to all of Eastern Kentucky. In the negotiations of the Public Private Partnership is President and CEO, Lonnie Lawson, pushing the middle mile routes down The Hal Rogers Parkway past Manchester, Hyden and Hazard and on up to Prestonsburg. Then bringing another middle mile down 25E from Corbin to Barbourville and Pineville then turning north on 119 to Harlan to Cumberland/Benham and Lynch to Whitesburg and on up to Pikeville. The entire zone will be encircled by 2017. An estimated $10 million dollars of the $230 million budget will be spent in the Promise Zone.
The Center for Rural Development also prepares our future leaders by hosting summer camps called Rogers Scholars, Rogers Explorers and ELI, Entrepreneurism and Leadership Institute. This year, Youth Program Coordinator Delany Stephens hosted 10 Promise Zone 11th graders in the Rogers Scholars. Those students worked on their leadership skills, participated in a series of team-building exercises; received hands-on instructional training from professional experts in engineering, healthcare, and video production; and interacted with nationally recognized business leaders and entrepreneurs. The Rogers Explorers program is an intensive three-day, two-night program focused on cultivating skills in leadership, technology, math, science, and community service in which 37 Promise Zone 8th graders participated. And 6 Promise Zone high school students participated the intensive, weeklong ELI, program which focuses on developing creativity, teamwork, business and leadership skills. That’s fifty-three future Promise Zone leaders.
The Center also administrates the Small, Rural, Tribal and Border Regional Center which provides low or no cost, technology solutions to the small and rural law enforcement agencies around the nation that do not have the budget to obtain the latest technology, In 2015, the Center was able to purchase a deployment trailer and equipment for the Hazard Police Department. The equipment included computers, wireless cameras, satellite phones, satellite dish, radio and routers. The deployment trailer serves as a police station in the field.
In January, the Center produced a 30 second television commercial highlighting the first year anniversary of the Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone. They picked up the cost for airing that commercial on WKYT, WYMT, WBKO and the CW between January and mid-February.