Congressman Hal Rogers’ school of thought seemed centered on thoughts of school this week, as the 5th-district Republican made a pair of education-related announcements.

Rogers heralded the awarding of $40,000 to “Forward in the Fifth,” an initiative serving 41 counties in central, southern and eastern Kentucky geared toward promoting education in regional communities. The funds will allow implementation of the “Empowering People of Rural Appalachian Kentucky” project, which is meant to develop communications materials and promote the utilization of technology and Internet-based solutions “to foster personal and social change,” according to Congressman Rogers’ office. That could include teaching users how to access elected officials, communicate on-line and use electronic tools to provide educational resources in rural areas.

“Forward in the Fifth” will provide $10,000 as well, bringing the total project funding to $50,000. “Forward in the Fifth” is an educational resource on the Web that uses a site and e-newsletters to provide general information on what’s going on with education in the fifth congressional district. The non-profit organization founded by Rogers and other area businessmen also provides on-line classes free of charge, programs to instruct users with Microsoft Office products, and informational tools for parents on how to communicate with teachers, according to executive director Jim Simpson.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is the outfit awarding the money.

“‘Forward in the Fifth’ continues to serve our region well in providing valuable educational resources to school administrators, helping teenagers transition to full-time employment, and teaching important computer skills to children and working men and women,” said Rogers. “I am pleased to see this ARC investment build on efforts to improve technology and Internet proficiency in Appalachia.”

Also announced by Rogers on Wednesday was an award of $460,385 by the Department of Education to Somerset Community College under the High School Equivalency Program (HEP), purposed to provide 110 eligible commuter students the support and instruction to attain a general education diploma (GED).

The funding is meant to initiate a five-year program at SCC known as “Project BEAM (Bringing Education and Achievement to Migrants),” which will help migrant workers who are participants to get into post-secondary educational institutions. That includes tutoring for the GED, outreach and counseling services, placement services for colleges and junior colleges, military service or a career, and weekly stipends or residential housing, as well as exposure to educational and cultural activities.

“Having a high school diploma or GED is incredibly important in today’s job market,” stated Rogers. “Our region can’t afford for young people and adults to slip through the cracks and miss this educational milestone. This funding will ripple through our local economy as these folks increase their earning potential. I am pleased to see this funding made available to Somerset Community College.”

Project BEAM has been operating for the past five years in Pulaski, Russell, Casey, Clinton, Wayne and McCreary Counties, and has helped 83 people complete their GED in the last year — 55 of whom are now enrolled in some form of post-secondary education, according to David Cazalet of SCC.

Cazalet also passed along the statement of program director Stewart Phillips, who said the money award was “exceptionally good news.”

The goal will be to get a GED for 350 people over the next five years. Under the terms of the grant, 80 percent of that total must either enter post-secondary education, find a career or enter the military.

“As long as we meet our goal, we’re looking at the $460,385 times five, because it’s funded one year at a time over five years,” said Cazalet.

Rogers funds both the ARC and the Department of Education as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.

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