A new video released today by the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) highlights successes within Somerset and Pulaski County’s public education systems and two- and four-year diploma programs, tools vital to the success of the community’s residents.
“Providing quality educational opportunities at home for our students is important in helping ensure their future success — giving them the best chance at stable employment, an income to support themselves and their families, developing their communities,” SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said. “From the beginning, our plan has been to create a video series highlighting various successes in our community. This piece showcases the fantastic opportunities available to students here, and the outstanding leaders helping make that possible.”
The video features interviews with Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Patrick Richardson and Somerset Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively, as well as Dr. Carey Castle, president of Somerset Community College, and Alessa Johnson, SCC vice president of workforce solutions. They discuss the crowning achievements their institutions bring to the table in creating an enriching educational environment in Pulaski County and southern Kentucky.
Somerset-Pulaski County is home to three top 40 public high schools — Somerset High School, Pulaski County High School and Southwestern High School — out of 227 in Kentucky ranked by U.S. News and World Report. All boast high graduation rates and offer rigorous academics in addition to a wide variety of extracurricular and leadership programs that help students develop skills to succeed beyond high school.
“I’m very proud of Pulaski County Schools, and the accomplishments we’ve had,” Richardson said, noting that in the last two years, two of the district’s elementary schools — Oak Hill and Shopville — have been named National Blue Ribbon schools. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
At Somerset Independent, Lively highlights career and technical programming, improvements to Advanced Placement and dual credit offerings, and the addition of the Carnegie Academy, which offers an advanced curriculum for gifted and talented students. Similar to programs like Western Kentucky University’s Gatton Academy, this program allows these students to remain in high school and enjoy the experiences this stage of life brings.
“That’s our ultimate goal here at Somerset is to produce productive members of society, so when students walk across the stage and receive their diploma, that they’re ready for the next facet of their lives,” Lively said.
Somerset Community College, part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, offers two-year degree programs and workforce solutions for students interested in entering health care, culinary, computer technology, mechanics and engineering fields, among many others. A new initiative, The University Center of Southern Kentucky, provides several pathways for students to earn a four-year degree from partnering universities in Kentucky on the campus of Somerset Community College after completing a two-year program.
“If you come here for two years, and you want to go on to a university, we have the University Center of Southern Kentucky here for you, all you have to do is take our classes, finish up two more years with that university here on the Somerset campus and go on into your career pathway,” Castle said.
But the majority of SCC’s students, Castle noted — more than 50 percent — are not going on to a university. They’re pursuing a career path in a technical field that interests them.
That, Johnson said, is available through career technical education programs, as well as short-term training options like lineman training, CDL training or the Kentucky FAME advanced manufacturing technician program.
Ultimately, Castle and Johnson want prospective students and parents to know that SCC provides diverse educational opportunities to fit a variety of needs.
“We are about one main thing, and that main thing is student success,” Castle said. “It’s all about what the student needs. And our job has been and continues to be one of completing our main thing.”
Girdler said he launched this video series because he believes in the importance of telling and sharing Somerset and Pulaski County’s story, especially as it relates to the pillars that help it become a stronger economy.
“We, as a community, need to do the best we can to tell our story and share the great things we are doing with each other as well as those around the state, nation and world,” Girdler said.
The third video in the series will focus on healthcare and the medical community, and the fourth on tourism. They will be released later this year.