HAZARD — Former residents of Hazard banded together to form a non-profit organization called Appalachian Connection. The mission of the non-profit is to help students in the Appalachian region with the financial burden of higher education.
Hazard natives John Cornett and George Fitz founded Appalachian Connection in November 2015 with the intention to give back to the community they grew up in.
Each year, a student from Perry County is awarded a $10,000 scholarship by Appalachian Connection. The recipient will receive $2,500 per academic year to help with the financial burden of a traditional four-year degree.
In the future, Cornett hopes Appalachian Connection can help students in the surrounding counties.
One of the reasons Cornett wanted to start up Appalachian Connection was because he felt this area was going in the wrong direction.
“I feel like a lot of folks are still banking on coal. I don’t think coal is the answer. Unfortunately I don’t know what that answer is, but I’ve confident that some kid sitting in classes today does know the answer,” said Cornett.
He said he wants students to further their education, make contacts while they are in college and bring their knowledge back to this region. Cornett hopes these students can bring industries that aren’t necessary coal related, such as manufacturing to this area.
Cornett said this area has a quality of people that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States or the world.
“I would come home and see that more places have gone out of business. It just seems that things are deteriorating, but the one thing that I feel that isn’t deteriorating is the quality of the people there,” said Cornett.
Cornett knows this area has many intelligent young people that might not be able to go to college because of financial reasons.
The important thing for the students to know, Cornett said, is that there are people and organizations who believe in them.
Less than six months after being founded, Appalachian Connection awarded its first scholarship to Hazard High School senior Lauren Little.
Little plans on attending Alice Lloyd College.
Cornett said one of the toughest decisions to make is awarding the scholarship, because many students are deserving.
For more information on how to apply for the scholarship or to donate, please visit appalachianconnection.org. The group also has a Facebook page under the name Appalachian Connection.
TJ Caudill is a reporter with The Hazard Herald and he can be reached at 606-629-3245.