BRIGHT Kentucky Visits Frankfort and Berea

Posted on: December 1, 2023
Bright 2023

Written by Leslie Lester, City of Monticello Office Coordinator, BRIGHT Kentucky Class of 2023  


The BRIGHT Kentucky cohort arrived at the Frankfort Country Club on a crisp, cold Wednesday morning in Frankfort, Kentucky. The drive was beautiful. The fall foliage showed its true beauty as participants drove in from all parts of Eastern Kentucky for the final session of BRIGHT. Classmates spoke of personal and professional successes since the last session, and yes, this group will move mountains if they keep up the motivation and drive they currently possess.

If you are in the professional world and expect to be taken seriously, you must know how to conduct yourself at a formal dinner. Thanks to Les Fugate, VP Director of State and Local Government Relations Brown-Forman, the class now knows how to grab the company's CEO and President's attention with proper business etiquette. After a fabulous lunch of chicken parmesan, we headed across town to the Kentucky State Capitol. This was the first time some members of the class had the pleasure of visiting the Capitol. As you walk up the long sidewalk to the parade of stairs to the grand front doors, it is a sight to behold (even during construction). After a group photo on the steps, the class met the guide for a tour, and some who have visited the Capitol multiple times, learned many interesting new facts. The first stop was the grand room for display, which was initially the Governor's office but is now used as a display area to showcase the astonishing artwork and craftsmanship put into the capitol building many years ago.

Then, on to the Supreme Court Chambers, where the class was greeted by Supreme Court Justice Debra Lambert of the 2nd District and Katie Bing, Clerk of the Courts. Justice Lambert gave a detailed explanation of what the Supreme Court of Kentucky does and how things are handled and allowed the cohort to view and visit the conference room lined with portraits of previous historical judges. As participants traveled the historic hallways, they admired the beauty that was before them as they made their way to the Senate Chambers, where they were greeted by Senator Robin Webb, 18th district, Senator Brandon Storm, 21st district, and Dr. Eric Friedlander, Secretary, Cabinet for Health, and Family Services. Senator Webb and Senator Storm spoke with the group on how you may not always see eye to eye with someone, but you have to work together, crossing party lines, to achieve the best bills passed for the Commonwealth's people. It may be a slow process and take time to perfect, but their job is to hear from community members on proposed legislation. Legislators then can work for the people of their district to let their voices be heard. Dr Friedlander spoke of how the Cabinet for Health and Family has changed over the years and how the cabinet's goal is to help people get back on their feet. Then, off to Berea to check in at the Historic Boone Tavern and enjoy an evening of mixing and mingling with BRIGHT alums.

Rise and shine; it’s day two of the last session. While the class enjoyed a hearty breakfast burrito in the Boone Tavern Event Center and a cup of coffee to wake up, they learned about the Kentucky economy from Professor Alison F. Davis, Ph.D., Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky. This was a very class-engaged session as everyone saw different economic challenges in their home areas. Even though everyone is from the Appalachian region, they all face different economic struggles. These were all great topics for these young leaders in our communities to think about and see how they can help change happen. Berea College campus is something out of a small town, Hallmark movie, the craftsmanship of the buildings, and stories of how this campus was founded from hard work and determination were motivating, to say the least. The walking tour really brought this small college campus to life.

The cohort loaded onto the bus and were on the road again to Irvine, Kentucky to visit classmate, Micah Drake, the plant manager of Carhartt. After a discussion about the plant, the employment opportunities it gives to the people in the community, and how Carhartt invests so much in the Appalachian economy, they went on a tour of the facility. The sewing machines were humming and creating a sound of productivity as the employees were hard at work taking loose pieces of fabric and creating a completed pair of pants that would be sold in stores across the United States.

The next stop of the road trip was at the Kentucky Steam Heritage Event Center, which has recently received a grant and funding opportunity for the construction of an event center, amphitheater, and railroad history museum. Back to the hotel to freshen up and head to dinner at the beautiful Chenault Vineyards, where they feasted on a fantastic prime rib meal with all the excellent accenting sides. This was a perfect meal to use those etiquette skills learned on day one. They ended the night by sitting around the fire pit, talking, and sharing ideas on future endeavors.

Friday morning has come too fast as the participants are in the last hours of being the current class of BRIGHT Kentucky. They leave the beautiful Boone Tavern dressed in their best attire for graduation day. The first stop was at Christian Appalachian Project Grateful Bread Food Pantry, where classmate Lauren Kirby gave the grand tour of the current pantry and the new and improved building that is being constructed next door, which will allow them to serve more people in the community.

Graduation is drawing closer with each stop. The final stop on this BRIGHT journey, The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum located in Renfro Valley, Kentucky. Jessica Blankenship, Executive Director, 2019 BRIGHT Alum, welcomed us with open arms. She shared how much of an impact BRIGHT has had on her life, from job opportunities to the connections she made during her time with BRIGHT Kentucky gave her the resources to reach out to people to help her when she was in need.

After a tour of the museum and a yummy BBQ Lunch, it was time for this adventure to come to an end. Classmates spoke of relationships built during the last five months, growth not just in employment but personally, and how this program has helped to shape them into something they never thought they could be. Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens Iron” is an excellent recap of the cohort’s time together. They push each other to be better people, work harder, and strive for goals they didn't think they could achieve because they now have a network saying YOU are capable of doing this; you are unique; you have the skills and the connections, and I give you my 100% support. This is sometimes what we all need to help us take those challenging leaps. Daniel Carmack opened the ceremony with his words of wisdom and great advice on always keeping the connections you have created during this program. The leadership team will always cheer you on for anything you do. Last but not least, the class sat all ears listening as Elmer Whitaker, spoke of his life, how he got where he was today, what it takes to be that person that everyone looks to for help and advice, how to build a strong community and how it can quickly crumble. Personally, the most powerful thing that was said that day was, “Do not ever get so busy trying to make a living that you stop making a life for your family. Work hard, but take the time to make the memories and let the people around you know that you love them.” Names were called, plaques were handed out, photos were taken, and goodbyes were said. A wrap on BRIGHT Kentucky 2023 and a lifetime of memories and connections made. Thank you, BRIGHT!

Norton Healthcare
Pikeville Medical Center
Kentucky Power
US Bank
RunSwitch PR
Stites & Harbison, PLLC
Republic Bank
Whitaker Bank
Putting Kentuckians First and Reentry with the Kentucky Office Of Adult Education and the Education and Labor Cabinet
CHI St Joseph Healthcare
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
University of Louisville
Delta Dental
Kentucky Association of Health Plans
Whitaker Bank Foundation
St. Elizabeth Healthcare
Tennessee Valley Authority
Appalachian Regional Healthcare