BRIGHT visits Morehead and Ashland

Posted on: October 2, 2023
BRIGHT 2023 Morehead and Ashland

Written by Shanna Storm, MSW, CSW, Oncology Social Worker for CHI Saint Joseph Health, BRIGHT Class of 2023


“Collaborating for Higher Insight” was the theme of the third session of BRIGHT and marked the midway point for the Class of 2023. It was quickly apparent the itinerary had been carefully curated and supported participants gaining higher insight into not only leadership, but also the challenges facing our Appalachian region. While all sessions have been wonderful, this trip was on a higher playing field. Participants traveled across the Appalachian region to Morehead, Ashland, Catlettsburg, and other locales in the region.

Wednesday kicked off on the campus of Morehead University around noon with a lunch and learn, facilitated by Leadership Kentucky alumni and former LKY Board Chair, Elmer Whitaker, and Johnathan Nelson, BRIGHT class of 2019, emphasizing Leading with Integrity. Negotiating Difficult Conversations further built upon the framework of viewing leadership through an ethical lens. Both of these sessions were especially well received and helpful, allowing the BRIGHT class to ask pointed questions directly related to their own work experiences, such as traversing a tough discussion with a supervisor or member of your team. This was one of the most helpful aspects of BRIGHT to date, as many gained insight into their own work challenges as well as benefitted from having the outside perspective of the expert facilitators. 

Before departing Morehead University's campus, the group moved to the Space Science Center where they received a tour of the facility, learned more about the academic programs offered such as Space Science Engineering, and viewed a show in the Planetarium. Participants had an opportunity to see a satellite up close and personal, which was surprisingly heavier than anticipated. Before hitting the road, the class had the opportunity to meet many members of the Leadership Kentucky Board of Directors, as well as the President of Morehead State University, Dr. Jay Morgan. The night ended in Ashland. Unfortunately, rain kept the group from being able to go on a walking tour of Art Alley as planned, so the group gathered in the hotel lobby to socialize before moving to the dinner location. The evening meal was held at The Mill of Ashland and included a presentation by Pathways INC’s very own Aaron Ellis who discussed Taking Care of Our People. The cohort heard the innovative ways in which Pathways INC is supporting its workforce, with a robust employee wellness program as well as salary increases for many of its staff. Despite the evening ending late, after 9pm, the crowd was enjoying one another's company so much that many decided to stay a while and sing Karaoke. The Class of 2023 certainly has some star performers among the group.

To say the second day of BRIGHT was jam packed would be an understatement. The morning began with breakfast and a presentation by the lovely Hilda Legg, a Rural Economic Development Consultant with Legg Strategies and Leadership Kentucky Alum, discussing Broadband across Appalachia. Providing high speed access in the rural infrastructure space is not without challenges. Through partnership building, strategic planning, and federal funding, communities can bring about change and provide access to high speed internet solutions, allowing more rural areas to promote telecommunications positions in locations that previously were not able to do so. Broadband access can stimulate local economies and lead to more creative business opportunities. 

BRIGHT participants boarded a charter bus to shuttle them to various destinations throughout the day, making it feel as though one was a VIP. The tour began with a trip to Kentucky Power’s Big Sandy Plant. President and CEO Cindy Wiseman of Kentucky Power provided a history of the utility provider in the region, as well as the obstacles the organization faces including the loss of residents, rising power costs, and aging infrastructure. The BRIGHT crew donned hard hats, safety glasses, and ear plugs and received a behind the scenes tour of the plant. It quickly became apparent one of the greatest assets of Kentucky Power is its workforce, with many of the employees having a great deal of experience and expertise within the industry. The group walked away with a greater appreciation for everything it takes to power our homes, businesses, and communities. The next stop included a trip to the Marathon Marine Terminal, with the company rolling out the red carpet for The Class of 2023, with a reception lunch on the river aboard a barge attended by David Earl the Manager of Marine Operations and James Mathis the Supervisor of Marine Operations for Marathon. Following the trip down the river everyone boarded the bus to journey through Marathon’s Catlettsburg Refinery, which was narrated by the knowledgeable, yet entertaining, Senior Refining Engineer for Marathon Johnny Highfield. The idea that Kentucky is home to such a large oil manufacturing operation was enlightening to many within the group not already from the Ashland region.  

The latter half of the second day included a shift in thinking to the forms of local government. The Boyd County government graciously welcomed the group to the Boyd County Courthouse in Catlettsburg. Several BRIGHT alumni have proven to be movers and shakers within local government, challenging the status quo in the political landscape. Through innovation and strategic planning, the Boyd County government has been able to attract large business development projects to the area including the next stop of the day, Sandy’s Racing and Gaming. For the second time in the day, BRIGHT put on their hard hats while they viewed the active construction site at Sandy’s Racing and Gaming led by John Marshall the President and COO. With Sandy’s mere months before opening night, the site was a flurry of activity. Sandy’s will bring over 200 jobs to the region, as well as provide a tourist destination to stimulate the local economy. This busy day concluded with dinner at Backyard Pizza, with many of the Regional BRIGHT Alumni joining the class.  

The last day of the third session may not have involved riding a tour bus or numerous venue changes, but it was exciting. Friday began with a Reentry Simulation spearheaded by Marty Ballard and Jarvis Livingston from The Kentucky Department of Corrections, Division of Reentry Services. During this simulation, each individual in the class assumed the identity of a recently released inmate from the Department of Corrections, experiencing the first month of the offender’s post release life. The activity mimicked the struggles and challenges faced by individuals who are transitioning from incarceration to home in their communities. Walking in the shoes of another person facing hardship and the stigma associated with incarceration provides invaluable insight for professionals and organizations who are tasked with helping those to achieve successful reentry. A later session with Gene Detherage Jr, the Deputy Director of Business Development for GET HELP and 2020 BRIGHT Alum, provided further insight into the challenges facing offenders upon reentry. Gene provided a first-hand account of the challenges he faced during his addiction, subsequent incarceration, and successful reintegration into his community upon his release. Gene has been a staunch advocate for recovery within the state and played a pivotal role in recent legislation regulating recovery housing. The day concluded with a presentation by one near and dear to BRIGHT, Karen Butcher, who called for statewide action regarding Opioid Use Disorder. Karen shared her intimate knowledge of having a loved one struggle with addiction. Through her own family tragedy, she has made it her mission to support others battling addiction through Naloxone access, as well as the development of community support services such as Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PALS) chapters throughout the state.

The BRIGHT class of 2023 started as a group of strangers, yet over these months’ county lines have dissolved and strangers have become more like family. During this short time members of the cohort have moved up within their field, made career changes, and harnessed the momentum from sessions to make lasting impacts within their communities. With each session comes greater understanding of the region and personal leadership development. Prior classes have gone on to make significant advancements within their communities and the BRIGHT Class of 2023 should prove no different. The next BRIGHT session moves to Corbin and Somerset the first week of October.   

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