Letcher Schools Supt. Anna Craft began trying to raise money for a state-of-the-art area technology center when she became superintendent in 2001.
“Every time I would get close, building prices would go up,” Craft said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Letcher County Area Technology Center. “My board chairman one day said ‘you are just going to have to give up on that goal.’ I said ‘I am not giving up.’”
Craft kept looking for funds for the new 50,000-square-foot center.
“And when we got within $1 million I contacted the governor and I said ‘Governor, I’m $1 million within building it and if we don’t do it now, it’s going to get out of sight,’” Craft said. “He said, ‘I’ll see what I can do’ and I thought yeah, right.”
Craft said she was attending a superintendents’ meeting in Bowling Green when Gov. Steve Beshear, who was scheduled to speak at the gathering, asked to meet with her.
“A state policeman eased in there and said the Governor would like to see you in the hall,” said Craft. “So I went out in the hall and he gave me a big hug and said ‘I’ve got your million dollars for you.’ I cried the rest of the meeting.”
Craft said the fulfilled promise is proof that when Beshear says something he does it.
“He doesn’t make idle promises,” said Craft. “He’s a friend of education.”
Craft also cried during the April 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Letcher County Area Technology Center, which was built adjacent to Letcher County Central High School in Ermine. She had not been able to attend the groundbreaking ceremony in August 2010 because she was recovering from a heart procedure.
Beshear, who served as the keynote speaker at last week’s ceremony, explained why he wanted to be in Whitesburg for the event.
“I wanted to be here for (Craft),” said Beshear. “I wanted to be here for Letcher County. Most of all I wanted to be here for those students out there, because that is who is going to benefit.”
Beshear said the $8.9 million project is the result of more than a decade of hard work, devotion and perseverance, especially on the local level.
“The primary reason I am excited about being here is because in this increasingly sophisticated marketplace that we call the 21st century, our area technology centers have never been more important,” said Beshear. “For Kentucky and for Kentuckians to compete in this 21st century economy and for our families to have even a higher quality of life, nothing is as critical as a strong, vibrant and highly-educational and skilled workforce.”
Beshear said area technology centers are much different than vocational schools built in the 1960s.
“These are high tech learning centers that combine technical skills and knowledge, rigorous academics and real-life employment training to create programs that evolve with the ever-changing world of work,” he said.
Beshear said career and technical education in Kentucky has become a critical link in preparing our high school students for college, a career or both.
“A high school diploma in and of itself is not going to get the job done for most people anymore,” said Beshear. “We have got to push on. We have got to get that high school diploma, but we’ve got to develop skills in high school that will give us the types of skills we need to be successful in this world and we’ve got to have that kind of specialized training.”
State Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, State Rep. Leslie Cobs and State Rep. John Short were among those in attendance at the ribboncutting ceremony.
During the ceremony, Craft accepted checks of $25,000 for the technology center from coal operator Alpha Natural Resources and $20,000 each from Community Trust Bank and Whitaker Bank.