PRESTONSBURG – Four members of the 2015-16 UNITE Service Corps were recognized with going “Above and Beyond” during a year-end celebration program June 9, 2016.
Shon Gray, Benji Hammons, Bethany Rockrohr and Kenna Spears were honored for “demonstrating passion and ingenuity in service to the youth of southern and eastern Kentucky,” said Nancy Hale, president/CEO of Operation UNITE.
Among the attendees was Carrie Stith-Webster, program director for the Kentucky Commission on Community and Volunteer Service.
In addition to his regular duties, Gray has taken it on himself to seek out Owsley County Elementary School students that may be having behavior problems and mentoring them.
Gray organized a clean-up project for downtown Booneville. When adults and business owners saw the students taking pride in their community, they felt compelled to lend a hand.
In addition, he has driven water trucks to disaster areas during two snow storms and one flooded area. He even shoveled snow from the roadway and driveways to allow ambulance service personnel to reach elderly patients.
Among Hammons’ accomplishments was to use a corner of the playground at Cold Hill Elementary in Laurel County to cultivate a garden and teach the children how to plant, grow and harvest food.
Local merchants donated seeds and supplies for the project. Students plowed the ground, planted the seeds, and worked the garden until end of school. When they returned for summer programs in math, students were able to harvest the crops, take them home, and share with their families.
She incorporated math into the program by having students measure the weight of the seeds and compared that to the harvest.
Hayes Lewis is a small rural school in Leslie County. Because of Rockrohr’s grant-writing efforts, she was able to bring activities and education materials to her school.
She developed a game that featured that students and parents/guardians could participate in to learn about substance abuse. Following the use of that activity, one parent sought help from UNITE for an addiction problem, saying she was inspired to seek help because of her daughter’s knowledge.
In addition, Rockrohr has twice assisted with the UNITE-sponsored National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.
A passion for using the arts to teach substance abuse and healthy living set Spears apart from her peers.
One of the impressive projects at Highland-Turner Elementary in Breathitt County was the “I’m Drug Free Tree.” The leaves were handprints of the students labled with things they could do to enjoy life, have fun and help others. The roots were labeled with the positive aspects of life – such as family, friends and compassion.
The tree project “grew” to a larger scale for Camp UNITE participants.
In addition, Spears obtained a grant to purchase supplies for a community art program she started for families.
UNITE employed 44 full-time AmeriCorps members for the 2015-16 school year as part of its UNITE Service Corps (USC) initiative.
Service Corps members provide math tutoring and drug abuse prevention education using the “Too Good for Drugs” and “Healthy Futures/Take 10” wellness curricula to elementary school students. Service Corps members also serve as sponsors for anti-drug UNITE Clubs and recruit volunteers for school-based prevention programs.