Two locals complete BRIGHT Kentucky training

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The BRIGHT Kentucky program is an opportunity for those who wish to be community leaders to network with other like-minded people and learn useful information at the same time.

Participants from Bell County included State Representative Adam Bowling and Pineville Main Street Director Jacob Roan, who both graduated from the program in November. According to a press release, “BRIGHT Kentucky began in 2019 with the hope of engaging bright, entrepreneurial minds from various occupational sectors to offer non-partisan, ethical leadership training, expanded networks, and mentors designed especially for residents of the 54 Kentucky counties of the

Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). BRIGHT Kentucky has been made possible by a $500,000 ARC grant and private funding from the Whitaker Foundation, SOAR, and others.

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President of Leadership Kentucky Janice Way explained different aspects of the BRIGHT program.

“It’s a new program we started in 2019,” Way said. “It’s basically designed to build the capacity of the next generation of leaders age 21 to 40.”

The program is open to those in the Appalachian region of Kentucky between the ages of 21 and 40.

“That’s basically the 54 ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) counties,” Way said.

Way explained the program instructs participants to innovate, collaborate, network and focus on community economic development.

“What we really hope to do is inspire and engage bright young leaders from all sectors to offer non-partisan ethical leadership training, expand their network and offer them mentors and encouragement,” Way said. “I grew up in eastern Kentucky, and I know sometimes we in eastern Kentucky have to work a little harder than other places to get things accomplished. That’s what this BRIGHT program is all about.”

Way explained the program lasts five months, with meetings two or three days a month.

“Usually it’s Wednesday through Friday, we’ll start Wednesday around noon or 1 p.m. and we conclude on the last day at about that same time,” Way said. “It’s two half days and a full day. We do travel to at least five different locations within those 54 ARC counties.”

Way mentioned the program participants have traveled to communities such as Somerset, Pikeville, and Prestonsburg. She added they try to take as many people from the 54 ARC counties as possible.

According to Way, participants who live in one area may not know anything about other areas in the region.

“If you live in Pikeville, you may not know what’s going on in Bell County, for example,” Way said. “What we found out is they are learning so much from each other. They are learning ideas that are working in various communities and coming to an understanding that sharing information and helping each other helps the community and region as a whole.”

Way stated the long-term benefit of the program should not be ignored.

“People can’t really understand the long-term benefit of these programs until they have gone through them and established those contacts and relationships,” Way said. “The do help you personally and professionally for the rest of your life.”

“BRIGHT Kentucky was formed to help develop local leaders that will transform the Appalachian region for future generations. To move this region forward, the local leaders will need resilience, courage, a strong network, and commitment,” said Elmer K. Whitaker, President/CEO of Whitaker Bank and Leadership Kentucky board member. “There is no doubt that these 38 individuals possess all that and more, having responsibly navigated a leadership program in the midst of a global pandemic. We are so proud of what they overcame to take full advantage of this experiential program; their futures are indeed bright!”

Those who wish to take part in the program should contact Leadership Kentucky at their email at, call 502-695-1102 or go to the website at

“The application process starts in the spring,” Way said. “You can self-nominate and you’ll need a couple of references.”

The release states this year’s BRIGHT Kentucky program ran from July through November, including visits to Somerset, Ashland, Berea/Frankfort, Pikeville, and Hazard.