By Erin Deaton
For the Mountain Advocate
Familiar Knox County faces join committee members, working group chairs, and federal state, and local authorities at recent Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) board meeting and retreat at Eastern Kentucky University Manchester Regional Campus in efforts to keep moving forward with the initiative.
The initiative launched in late 2013 by Governor Steve Beshear and Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers has received much attention from region publics. Hosting over 100 summer regional working group listening sessions, SOAR has engaged hundreds of eastern Kentucky citizens in conversation about future development of the region. SOAR continues to develop and put into action new locally-oriented strategies to attack persistent challenges that face Knox County and the rest of eastern Kentucky in areas such as education, broadband, health and tourism.
Knox County native Melissa Newman serves as an Eastern Kentucky University communication instructor and SOAR liaison. Newman was one of many in attendance at the recent SOAR board meeting. Producing valuable work in the form of media coverage and intern supervision, she helps move the initiative forward.
“Our public relations interns have traveled all over the SOAR region to provide coverage for meetings and listening sessions,” Newman said. “It’s an honor to host one at our regional Manchester campus. We look forward to continuing our integration within the SOAR initiative and providing continuing coverage.”
Representing Knox County in the 25th Senate District, President of the Kentucky State Senate, Robert Stivers, was also in attendance and welcomed SOAR to EKU-Manchester for a daylong event of meetings and planning for future improvement of eastern Kentucky.
“I was pleased that Eastern Kentucky’s Manchester Campus had the opportunity to host the SOAR Executive Meeting yesterday, and glad I was able to welcome Congressman Hal Rogers, Governor Steve Beshear and other board members to my home town,” Stivers said. “Higher education institutions play an important role in helping eastern Kentucky overcome the economic challenges facing it and it is important that we all pool the resources we do have and work together.”
Over the summer, an Education and Retraining Working Group regional listening session was hosted at the Union College Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey Center. This working group, along with nine others will form action groups and working group chair advisory teams to further implement success of the initiative.