Seven Johnson County students graduated The Center for Rural Development’s youth programs this summer.

Rogers Scholars

Kaleb Triplett, representing Paintsville High School, graduated the Rogers Scholars program at Morehead State University in July. He is the son of John M. Triplett and Stephanie S. Triplett, of Banner.

Rogers Scholars, The Center’s flagship youth program, was established through the vision of U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) that “no young person should have to leave home to find his or her future.”

The intensive one-week summer program provides valuable leadership skills and opportunities for high school students in 45 Kentucky counties to build their skills as the region’s next generation of business and entrepreneurial leaders.

“The Rogers Scholars program challenges students to look at all of the possibilities that are open to them and aims to put them on a path to success at a young age while helping to create well rounded individuals that will go on to change this region forever,” said Lonnie Lawson, President and CEO of The Center.

Altogether, Johnson County had two  representatives in the Rogers Scholars program. As reported earlier this summer, the program was also held at Lindsey Wilson College in June, which was attended by Paintsville High School student Chloe Reynolds.   

Each graduate of the Rogers Scholars program earns potential access to exclusive scholarship opportunities from some of the state’s top-ranked colleges and universities.

The 2022 application period is November 1, 2021 through January 31, 2022.

Rogers Explorers

Four Johnson County students graduated the Rogers Explorers program — Ilana Estep, Kiersten Sagraves, Brock Horne, and Trent Cox. Rogers Explorers is a summer youth leadership program that takes place on five different college campuses throughout the Commonwealth.

Estep is the daughter of Steven and Connie Estep, of Staffordsville represented Johnson County Middle School. She attended the Union College camp. At graduation, representatives from the college announced that students would receive a $2,000 scholarship offer upon high school graduation.

Also representing Johnson County Middle School is Sagraves and Cox. Sagraves is the daughter of Shawnna and Anthony Sagraves, of Tutor Key. She attended the program at Eastern Kentucky University. Cox is the son of Misty and Jason Goble and Christopher Cox, of Hager Hill. He attended the program at Morehead State University.

Horne, son of Greg and Robin Horne, of Wayland, represented Paintsville Independent. He attended the program at Asbury University.

Rogers Explorers is open to eighth-grade students in Southern and Eastern Kentucky who have a strong interest in developing their skills in leadership, team building, community service, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields of study.

Rogers Explorers is a three-day and two-night program on a leading Kentucky college campus where experts will guide them through hands-on assignments. The program is provided at no cost to eligible students within The Center’s 45-county primary service area.

Rogers Explorers is presented by The Center in partnership with Lindsey Wilson College, Eastern Kentucky University, Morehead State University, Asbury University, and Union College. The 2022 application period is December 1, 2021 through February 28, 2022.

Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute

Two Johnson County students graduated the Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute in July — Braydon Staniford and Chelsea Reynolds.

Staniford, a student at Johnson Central High School, is the son of Adam and Kimberly O’Bryan and Ronnie and Michelle Staniford, of Paintsville. Reynolds, representing Paintsville High School, is the daughter of Kimberly and CV Reynolds, of Prestonsburg.

ELI is a weeklong summer leadership camp for student entrepreneurs. ELI provides high school students in Southern and Eastern Kentucky with an in-depth look at what it takes to start their own business venture — from idea development to building a model prototype of their business concept.

The Center for Rural Development partners with Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and Eastern Kentucky University to develop the program. During the camp, ELI business teams competed in the Business Concept Challenge competition. Members of the winning team earned a $16,000 scholarship from EKU.

The Center’s youth programs are made possible through the 2021 sponsors: TTAI of Somerset, South Kentucky RECC, Conley Bottom Resort, Outdoor Venture, Community Trust Bank of Somerset, First and Farmers Bank of Somerset, Kentucky Utilities, Lincoln Manufacturing, Forcht Bank of Somerset, and Vaughn and Melton of Middlesboro.

For more information about The Center’s youth programs, contact Allison Cross, community liaison and youth programs coordinator at The Center, at,, or call, (606) 677-6019.