Neely will complete project focused on recruiting and retaining younger generation to Somerset
A Somerset High School academic and athletic standout and Governor’s Scholar Program alumna has joined the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) as a summer intern.
Devan Neely, president of the SHS class of 2020, plans to attend the University of Kentucky in the fall to pursue a degree in biosystems engineering. She will enter UK as a Lewis Honors College Scholar in Engineering and Management (SEAM) and a member of STEMCats, a living-learning program for first-year students interested in biology, chemistry, geological sciences, math, neuroscience or physics fields.
Neely was also president of the DECA program at SHS and earned the Work Ethic Seal designation, two public education programs for which SPEDA is an active partner.
The internship was made possible through the Kentucky Career Center Cumberlands Work Experience Program. Available throughout the 13 counties within the Cumberlands Workforce Development area, these job placements are offered to private for-profit, non-profit and public agencies and organizations. They provide work experience and wages to participants, helping them learn skills for permanent employment in liveable wage jobs. Participating youth must be between the ages of 18 and 24 and a high school graduate.
SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said Neely’s resume speaks for itself — her dedication to earning outstanding grades while also being heavily involved in extracurricular activities and community service demonstrates her strong work ethic.
“Devan hit the ground running from the moment she walked in the door at SPEDA,” Girdler said. “I am excited to see her thrive in this role as she prepares to move on to the next phase of her life at the University of Kentucky. She is energetic, hardworking and a leader among her peers, and I have no doubt she will accomplish great things at SPEDA and beyond.”
In addition to a number of community service projects — including Special Olympics fundraisers, mission trips and peer tutoring — Neely was captain of the SHS golf and tennis teams, having reached the state tournament in both sports and being selected to the Kentucky High School Tennis Coaches Association (KYHSTCA) Tennis All-State Team.
While assisting with administrative tasks at SPEDA, Neely will learn about grant writing, public relations and the basic tenets of economic development during her internship. Her flagship project, however, will focus on the retention and recruitment of a younger generation to Somerset. Neely is assembling a focus group of 2020 high school graduates to discuss what they would like to see in their community in order to move back to Somerset post-graduation. She will deliver her findings to Girdler and SPEDA’s board of directors and prepare an essay for publication.
Neely said this experience will help her gain a better understanding of what it takes to start and manage businesses that matter to people.
“I will be studying how business management relates to engineering through the SEAM pathway in the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky,” Neely said. “I saw all of the wonderful things SPEDA has brought to our community over the past year, and I realized that I wanted to learn how to make positive change as I go to college and in whatever career I pursue in the future.”