SWHS student brightens up downtown area with her Rogers Scholar community service project
by Heather Tomlinson Commonwealth Journal
The May flowers appear to have sprung up in downtown Somerset, thanks to one local high school student’s efforts.
“This started off as a small project, but it blossomed into an outstanding downtown project,” said Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, about Southwestern High School junior Brittany Pittman’s endeavor.
Pittman, 17, a Rogers Scholar recipient, approached Girdler and several other Somerset officials in the fall in hopes of developing a downtown beautification project. As part of the Rogers Scholar program, recipients must design and propose a community service project in their hometown to be implemented by June.
Pittman said she got her inspiration from downtown London, Ky., which has attracted attention recently for its own beautification efforts.
“I just loved driving down there and seeing all the flowers,” said Pittman.
Pittman said she was nervous about the reception she may get — but that quickly dissolved after Girdler and Downtown Somerset Development Corporation Director Gib Gosser voiced their support of the project.
“Sometimes it takes somebody like that (a young community member) who gets things going,” said Gosser. “The mayor’s wanted to get something on the sidewalks for awhile and we’ve talked about it, but it just kept getting pushed back and pushed back.
“ ... But here came Brittany and she said she needed this done by June, and all the stars just lined up,” added Gosser.
The project features 26 commercial-grade plant pots Pittman was able to get at a discount rate from a Russell Springs resident who had previously bought the planters after they were moved from downtown Lexington.
The project was funded through the Downtown Somerset Development Corporation and the City of Somerset, and Pittman has received guidance from both the Lake Cumberland Master Gardeners Association and Sharon Truax, with J&S Garden Center, located on S. Richardson Street in downtown Somerset.
On Thursday, Pittman and several others, including her friends from school, began the process of planting flowers and shrubs in the 26 pots, with encouragement from Gosser, Girdler, Lonnie Lawson, president of The Center for Rural Development, and Delaney Stephens, youth programs coordinator and community liaison with The Center.
The Rogers Scholar program is considered The Center’s flagship youth program.
“This is the first step ... in making downtown more beautiful,” said Girdler.
Pittman is also involved in the SWHS Raptor Rehabilitation program, she’s a class officer, and she’s a member of the National Honors Society. She is also on the school’s golf team. But despite her busy schedule, she was happy to make time to help carry out her project.
“I’m glad I got to do this,” said Pittman. “Maybe it’ll encourage people my age to get out more and do things for the community.”
Stephens said Pittman has set the bar high for Rogers Scholar community projects.
“I’m extremely proud of her for organizing and coming up with the idea,” said Stephens. “It’s projects like these that make a difference in the community.
“She’s really gone above and beyond here,” added Stephens.