On Tuesday, May 22, Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) will participate in Kentucky Gives Day, a 24-hour opportunity to make a better life for a Southeast student. This year’s drive will focus on the Southeast Honors Program.
The mission of Southeast Honors is to provide enriched educational opportunities for the most academically- talented, promising, and motivated students at the college. According to Dr. Melissa Helton, who has directed the program since its fall 2013 inception, “Honors is a way for students to learn and grow outside of the standard classroom experience. Students learn through interdisciplinary study of a topic, through travel, and through experiences instead of just books and lectures. They join a community of friends that celebrates differences in ideas, where they are safe to explore the world instead of just learning an answer for an exam.”
As the college’s five campuses are located in some of the most impoverished communities in Appalachia, students often travel along narrow, winding roads deep in the mountains to attend college. “Many students have never even left their home county, so participating in Southeast Honors is truly the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Helton.
Recent Honors graduate Sarah King says that the program’s unique approach has enhanced her learning experience: “In class, we were able to interact with one another and discuss topics we may disagree on. That skill is invaluable, and because of the very nature of these classes at Southeast, I feel that I am well prepared for Eastern Kentucky University’s honors program.”
While students appreciate all opportunities the Honors Programs offer them, it is often the trips that make the most lasting impact. King says that attending the Southern Regional Honors Conference in Washington, D.C. last month was the “best academic experience I have had thus far. I was able to meet students from around the country and watch them present their research on various topics. I had the opportunity to present as well, and that has made me a better student and made me feel more prepared for my career path.”
For most Southeast students, these opportunities would not be possible except through scholarships from fundraising. The majority of students in Southeast Honors are both low income and the first in their families to attend college. For example, the average salary for a family of four is only $25,906, compared to $42,914 for Kentucky and $53,482 for the nation. These students simply could not afford the travel costs on their own, and with shrinking state budgets for colleges, programs like Southeast Honors are at risk.
“The reality is that much of this funding must come from outside groups and individuals who recognize the value in investing in our best and brightest,” says Dr. Michelle Dykes-Anderson, Chief Advancement Officer at the college. “Students excel when they have two things: opportunity and someone to believe in them. Southeast Honors gives them that.”
One hundred percent of donations go to the Southeast Honors Fund and are tax-deductible. For more information or to give, visit www.kygives.org/ organizations/southeasteducationfoundation.