Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. Might as well give them a little preparation. The Regina Correll Leadership Series is coming to Somerset High School starting this month, featuring big-name guest speakers who organizers hope will inspire and education local students.
The first among them is Troy Lee Coleman III, better known as Cowboy Troy. An artist who combines the genres of country and rap music, Cowboy Troy is known for songs like “I Play Chicken With the Train” and appearances on television shows like “Nashville Star” and “WWE Raw.”
As it turns out, Wes Cornett has a little bit of celebrity touch as well. While he’s known around these parts for being the principal of Somerset High School, Cornett used to rub shoulders with superstars when he worked in security with NASCAR events, providing executive protection details to drivers and others that came to races.
“In my former life ... when I did NASCAR security, I met Cowboy Troy and Big and Rich (a fellow country music act) and kind of became friends with them,” he said, noting that he’s kept in touch with them “through one-on-one interaction and social media interaction.”
Thus, Cornett thought of Cowboy Troy’s name when the idea to launch the Regina Correll Leadership Series came about, which happened as a result of conversations between him and First Baptist Church in Somerset pastor French Harmon.
“Dr. Harmon and I were at lunch one day and talking about, for lack of a better word, our burdens about students in general, and at the high school and church,” said Cornett, “leadership qualities and character qualities and making sure students are leaders, not followers.”
That shouldn’t be meant to imply that there were any particular problematic behavioral trends or disciplinary problems that Cornett was responding to, he noted, but more an idea of being “a leader in class, in relationships, or in the community.”
Cornett and French found themselves talking about their own backgrounds and how they got to their current positions of leadership, what impacted them along the way, and the idea for a leadership series in the recently remodeled W.B. Jones Auditorium at Somerset High School was born.
“We’ll bring in speakers every month on a new facet of leadership,” said Cornett. “We started throwing around the names of possible speakers. (Harmon) has a great relationship with Congressman (Hal) Rogers. I’ve got my contacts through the entertainment side of it, and we went from there.”
In order to obtain the money needed to attract some of these marquee names, Cornett and Harmon knew they’d need some help. They decided to name the series after Regina Correll, late wife of local philanthropist Ward Correll, who passed away in April.
“We came up with the idea of calling it the Regina Correll Leadership Series based on Mr. Correll’s impact on our school and all the resources he’s given us, financial and otherwise,” said Cornett. “This was before Mr. Correll passed away. (After that happened), we met again and contacted his son Jess Correll, who French and I both knew, to see if he’d help underwrite this. He was very agreeable to underwrite the program for this year and obviously in the future.”
The program is primarily for students at the high school, but there will likely be extra room for other members of the community, as the auditorium holds just over 750 people and there are about 550 students and personnel who would have seats. There would be no charge for admission.
The kick-off of the series will take place on Friday, September 23, at 1:45 p.m. at W.B. Jones Auditorium.
“(Cowboy Troy) is going to drive over from Nashville and spend a day or so with us at Somerset,” said Cornett. “He has a backstory himself. He has triplets and one of the sons is autistic. He began having some issues in his school system in Nashville with his son in the public school system. He’s going to be speaking on character in general, and somewhat on bullying. In general, treating others respectfully. ... He’s pretty excited about it.”
Other big things are lined up for future editions of the series. In October, Somerset High will host a tribute to the old Dunbar School for African-American students that existed during the era of segregation, located on South Maple Street. Cornett has been working with former SHS principal and current board member Jeff Perkins to gather memorabilia and photos of Dunbar, which will receive its own special display section at Somerset High School.
“We’ve focused hard to make sure our students don’t forget that this was at one time part of our community (and) what our forefathers did academically and sports-wise and with racial integration, to make sure we have what we have today at Somerset High School,” said Cornett.
In November, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin will be speaking, and after him, local author and entrepreneur Angela Correll. Cornett was also excited about Deputy Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Admiral Charles Ray scheduled to come to Somerset in the spring.