HAZARD — A group formed together to create a non-profit organization named Appalachian Connection, with the intention to give back to the community they grew up in. The mission of the non-profit is to help students in the Appalachian region ease the financial burden of higher education.
John Cornett and Patrick Farrell founded Appalachian Connection with the intention to give back to the region they grew up in. They quickly brought on George Fitz, Trigg Mitchell, and Max Mitchell to round out the board of directors.
Each year, a student will be 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.
One of the reasons Cornett wanted to start Appalachian Connection was because he believes this area needs more economic options.
“It wasn’t hard for us to notice the economy back home needs a boost and we wanted to help. Awarding a scholarship was the first step. Now we need everyone else who left eastern Kentucky, but feels the pull to help the place where they grew to join the fight. We need everyone to give so this doesn’t turn into a “one and done” scenario,” said Cornett.
Despite not living in the area, the members of Appalachian Connection still share a deep love of Appalachia.
“Everyone involved in Appalachian Connection is a product of Appalachia. While we may not all live here now, we feel compelled, even obligated to give back to the area that helped shape us into the people we are today,” said Cornett.
He said he wants students to further their education, make contacts while they are in college and bring their knowledge and recruit talent back to this region. Cornett hopes these students can bring varied industries and headquarter them in the area.
“Like everyone else, we are searching for answers in this time of economic transition. Unfortunately I don’t know what that answer is, but I’m confident that some kid sitting in the classroom today can produce the solution,” said Cornett.
Cornett said this area has a quality of people that can’t be found anywhere else. “One thing that I feel hasn’t changed is the quality of the people back home in the mountains,” said Cornett.
He said he 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, who believe they are the key to the future of our region.
Less than six months after being founded, Appalachian Connection awarded its first scholarship to Hazard High School senior Lauren Little.
Little is now a student at Alice Lloyd College.
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.