The Citizens National Bank of Paintsville has been a long-term partner of the Robinson Scholars Program at the University of Kentucky, and the bank’s support of our Scholars has had a tremendous positive impact on students in Eastern Kentucky and their communities. Indeed, the annual support provided by Citizens National Bank has been instrumental in ensuring that this novel student development initiative will continue in our region.
The Robinson Scholars Program has been successful because we take a long haul approach to working with students. We begin with a high school program that prepares students for college success, and we follow that with full scholarships to UK. Thus, we are able to work with students for up to seven years as they transition from high school to college and into meaningful careers. While we stress academic leadership for Robinson Scholars, our view of student development takes into account the importance of serving our communities. Thus, all Scholars in both high school and college complete community service as a way to be actively involved in their neighborhoods. Each year, our high school and college Scholars log thousands of service hours in Eastern Kentucky for projects that range from community cleanups to mentoring younger students and relief efforts after the March 2012 tornadoes that devastated several cities in the region.
We believe that keeping our youth involved in their communities is the best way to help them build a return path to eastern Kentucky after they complete college. Thus, our community service activities go beyond a benefit to individuals and organizations. In Robinson Scholars, we see community service as a way to build civic pride in our region’s future leaders. In addition to helping their communities improve, students also learn important lessons about themselves and the value of helping others. Our best evidence of the net effect of our service efforts is the outstanding level of commitment our UK Scholars have shown to the region. While it is sometimes difficult for our college students to remain connected to their home counties during their time in Lexington, they still manage to do so. This past year, Robinson Scholars at UK completed more than 1,000 hours of service (nearly half of all our reported hours) in Eastern Kentucky.
While our region is often framed in terms of what we don’t have, it is important to think about what we do have as we build on our success as a people. What we do have is a very talented and diverse group of young people who care about Eastern Kentucky. We also have many outstanding organizations and businesses that care about our communities, such as Citizens National Bank of Paintsville. Indeed, no business is more vested in the health and success of a community and its people than a community bank.
The support that Citizens National has shown Robinson Scholars during much of our history is an excellent example of how the diverse organizations in Eastern Kentucky can work together to bring about positive change. A visit to the bank’s Web site is instructional in showing the level of commitment to community building from this good corporate citizen. A look at the long list of civic groups and organizations that benefit from the support of Citizens National Bank of Paintsville shows that this company touches the lives of many people in Eastern Kentucky, both as a critical business and a civic-minded organization.
Jeff Spradling is director of the Robinson Scholars Program and the 2013-14 chair of the UK Staff Senate.