PRESTONSBURG – Each year, the first day of school is symbolic on many levels. As a student, I remember the excitement of progressing to a new grade, to a new school and the joy of my senior year of high school with the anticipation of the next big step to college. As a parent, I remember being a bundle of nerves as Judy and I dropped our children, Jon and JuliAnne, off to their first day of kindergarten.
I also remember the warm embrace when they achieved the milestones of graduating high school and college. My wife, Judy, and I were full of joy at their accomplishments.
Across eastern Kentucky, thousands of students are returning to school. Parents and guardians are entrusting their students to passionate educators at high performing districts throughout the region.
In the classrooms, lives will be transformed as educators open students’ eyes to a world of opportunity.
Last year, I visited Highland Elementary School in Johnson County. I watched as third graders – yes, third graders – produced podcasts on a variety of subjects for the world to see. In May, I congratulated Early College Academy graduates from Floyd County, Johnson County and Paintsville Independent school districts. These graduates completed high school while earning an associate degree from Big Sandy Community and Technical College.
Our role in education is transformational. It’s transformational to our students, to our region, to our nation and to our world. I am convinced students in eastern Kentucky have the capacity to do anything. What’s stopping us? Perhaps it’s not the unfair stereotypes placed on our region by outsiders. Maybe we should look in the mirror.
Why can’t our students change the world? Why can’t they be the next tech mogul, entrepreneur, CEO or even president? Our region is at an exciting crossroad, and while there are many potential paths, there is one common denominator – education. Education is power. It is transformational. It is the life-changing engine that propels one’s dreams and aspirations into reality. Let’s approach this academic year with a renewed focus on changing our region one student, one opportunity and one hope at a time.
Dr. Devin Stephenson is president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College.