Rural Education Summit at Berea College

Last Updated: December 17, 2013

This article appeared in the December 2013 Rural Policy Matters.

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Some 100 participants gathered late last month for a national Rural Education Summit in Berea, Kentucky. The two-day Summit was sponsored by Berea College through its Partners for Education program, which received the nation’s first rural Promise Neighborhood grant.

Day One of the Summit addressed issues surrounding rural poverty and the need for rural-centric responses. Day Two offered tours to sites in rural Kentucky to see the Berea Promise Neighborhood in action.

Dreama Gentry is Executive Director of Partners for Education at Berea College. She says the Summit was a way to bring attention to rural concerns. “When you do work that connects to a national context you see that the rural piece gets very little attention. As the first rural Promise Neighborhood, we want to highlight the work and the need to invest in rural places. We think it is important to show these initiatives to get people interested and attract a greater share of funding.”

As Director of the Berea Promise Neighborhood Initiative, Ginny Ann Blackson says policymakers and funders often don’t understand the needs or contexts of rural schools and communities and that relatively little grant funding is directed to rural places. “Many people are not aware of rural concerns or they make assumptions that are not accurate. And many grant requirements simply do not fit rural conditions,” she says. “We want funders and policymakers to pay more attention to rural America.”

The Summit included presentations on rural poverty, conversations about rural policy needs, perspectives from higher education and from regional funders on their work in rural communities, panel discussions with staff doing rural Promise Neighborhood planning or implementation in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and a talk by Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone on which the Promise Neighborhood model was based.

The tours to school and community sites demonstrated ways programs are building on community strengths and focused on early childhood, college and career readiness, and integration of health, wellness, arts and humanities, and parent engagement.

“The level of interest and participation in the Summit demonstrates the need and the high level of work being done by the Partners for Education staff. I am proud and honored to be a part of it,” Berea College President Lyle Roelofs said.


Read more from the December 2013 Rural Policy Matters.