Lewis County has the unfortunate distinction of having consistently ranked as number one in unemployment among Kentucky’s counties since 1999. That year, the county’s top employer, a shoe factory, closed its doors and left many residents without a means to provide for their families. Other companies, including a cabinet business and a fiberglass company, closed as well. With these additional closures, Lewis County became even more economically depressed. Dismal poverty and drug abuse have since plagued the area.
Thankfully, children have the Lewis County Middle and High Schools’ teachers and administration, as well as the Family Resource and Youth Services Center and Children Incorporated Volunteer Coordinator, Scott, to rely on. Scott, who oversees both schools, works closely with his colleagues and with parents to help encourage kids and overcome obstacles they face living in an impoverished environment. Being able to work with kids starting in middle school, and maintaining contact with them through high school, means that Scott can help kids focus on their education for many years, and he can help them set goals that he’ll be able to support all the way up to graduation - and sometimes even beyond.
Kids need more as they grow
The Lewis County Middle and High Schools share one Family Resource and Youth Services Center, where Scott met with our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, recently. The total number of students enrolled in the schools is about 750. Scott has one assistant, Sue, and because they have a very heavy workload, they stay incredibly busy ensuring that the students have the resources they need. Despite his hectic schedule, during Renée’s visit, Scott took the time to set up a tour of both schools, and meetings with sponsored students, as well as with some parents.
First, Renée and Scott met with Lydia, a loving and responsible mother who has a wonderfully positive outlook on life. Lydia and her husband have seven children. The eldest, Dianna*, is in the seventh grade, and has a sponsor through our program. Her daughter Brittany* is currently waiting to be sponsored. Lydia told Renée that as the children get older and are starting to enter middle school, they are growing fast, and are in need of more clothes and food than before, which is expensive for the family. Lydia’s husband is a self-employed construction laborer. His employment is erratic, so he doesn’t make enough to provide everything the family needs. Lydia said that she and her husband decided she needed to get a job, which made her nervous at first, because it meant that she would have to be away from her youngest child, Erin*, who is only a baby.
When Lydia was hired as a custodian at a nearby hospital in Morehead, Kentucky, she began paying a neighbor to babysit Erin while she was at work. Having to pay for childcare means Lydia doesn’t have a lot left over from her paychecks - but her job does help. Lydia is grateful for Dianna’s sponsor, and for the opportunity for Brittany to also get sponsored, because every little bit helps the family make ends meet, and helps keep her and her husband from worrying so much.
A dream of going to college
Renée also got the chance to meet Victoria. Victoria and her husband are raising a son and two daughters. One of their daughters, Sandra*, attended Lewis County Middle School, and is now at the high school. Victoria’s husband is a welder at construction jobs when work is available - but it is not steady. Victoria told Renée that Sandra is very bright and gets excellent grades. She said that Sandra dreams of going to college, and Victoria is pushing her to apply; but the family will need some additional financial support for tuition costs. Scott has known Sandra for a long time, and he feels that she would be an excellent candidate for the Children Incorporated Higher Education Program, which helps high-school graduates to continue with their education.
Finally, Scott called in a bright and high-achieving student that he wanted Renée to meet. Leslie* is in the eleventh grade. She is the second of four children in her family. Scott said Leslie’s older sister used to be enrolled in our sponsorship program. She is now attending Morehead State University on scholarships and student loans. The two youngest kids are twins who are in the seventh grade, and who are also enrolled in our sponsorship program. Their mother is a nurse who receives little child support, but is doing an excellent job of raising her children. Scott said that the girls are polite, active in school, and that they try hard academically. He wants to recommend Leslie for our Higher Education Program as well so that she may receive some additional help when she graduates.
It is important for Children Incorporated to have affiliated partners like the Lewis County Middle and High Schools, as well as volunteer coordinators like Scott, who can help children strive and overcome adversity year after year, until they graduate - and sometimes even beyond. When schools work closely together as children make the transition from middle to high, and then on to higher education, these close-knit relationships and people like Scott ensure that children grow up with opportunities for the long-term.
*Children’s names changed for their protection.