Lexington, KY, Dec 12, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that recipients in Kentucky will receive funding to improve access to health care and educational services in rural areas. Funding is provided through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Program and includes five projects serving rural residents in more than a dozen counties.
“This program delivers educational and medical opportunities that are urgently needed in remote, rural areas,” Vilsack said. “President Obama has said that no matter where you live in America, you should have access to quality educational opportunities. Rural Americans deserve the same opportunities for education and medical care as metropolitan-area residents, and these funds will make that happen.”
The grants, administered by USDA Rural Development through its Rural Utilities Service, will help fund 100 distance learning and telemedicine projects across the country. Kentucky’s five projects total nearly $1.4 million and will benefit rural residents in 13 counties.
Tom Fern, State Director for Rural Development, said the Pendleton County School District will receive a $498,546 grant that will be used to implement a distance learning system in three school systems. Pendleton is partnering with Williamstown Independent in Grant County and Gallatin County to address the problems that arise when resources are limited, budgets are cut and the number of teachers is reduced.
Fern further stated that the DLT program is designed specifically to meet the educational and health care needs of rural America. Through loans, grants and loan/grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced learning and health care opportunities for rural residents.
“I want to commend the school administrators in Pendleton County, Gallatin County and Williamstown Independent for having the vision and commitment to provide distance learning to multiple sites throughout both districts and continually looking for ways to better educate and support their students by enhancing curriculum,” said Fern.
This project will enable the three schools to share a distance learning system that will allow teachers to share classes as one large virtual school – and includes the use of mobile media carts, video conferencing equipment, white boards and interactive displays. The program is designed with community participation in mind and will provide a resource platform for residents that will enable them to improve their skills and job prospects.
“Considering the difficult economic times we face in our state, this grant will allow our districts to open doors to our students that might have been closed,” said Pendleton County Schools Superintendent Anthony Strong. “We see this as a way to tap in to courses not only offered in our region, but across the state and nation.”
“We are very pleased to partner with Pendleton County and Williamstown Independent Schools in this project. The media rich learning experiences made possible through this grant will provide yet another avenue to ensure that all of our students are College and Career Ready,” stated Mrs. Dot Perkins Gallatin County Schools Superintendent.
Sally Skinner, Williamstown Independent Superintendent echoed that sentiment, “This grant will help all our schools to be on the cutting edge and allow our students to have a competitive edge in learning.”
Michele Crowley, CIO of Pendleton County, applied for the grant and asked the other two districts to partner with her because she believed this was a way to break ground for three districts that typically would not have this opportunity.
“This brings a new medium of technology to students which will allow them to actively participate in curricular resources anywhere in the world, said Crowley. “We will be able to maximize learning by offering new resources to our students.”
Also included in this round of awards is funding to:
• Bath County School District was awarded a grant for $462,157 to establish a distance learning system in Bath and Menifee counties in an effort to improve academic excellence. The project will enhance curriculum offerings through shared classes, the creation of specialized learning situations for each student, the expansion of foreign language offerings and the availability of dual credit to increase college attendance.
• Grace Community Health Center will receive a $79,826 grant to link the center’s hub in the city of Gray to its partner office in the city of Manchester, as well as other rural hospitals in the region.
• Kentucky River Community Care was approved for $117,560 in grant funds to provide professional services and development and training for 14 community mental health centers and hospitals in the Kentucky Behavioral Telehealth Network.
• Norton Healthcare Foundation was awarded a grant in the amount of $238,398 to purchase and install telemedicine equipment at three rural hospitals in Kentucky and Indiana.
For a list of awardees that will receive funding under Rural Development’s DLT Program, please click here. Awards are contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of the agreement with USDA.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses, entrepreneurs and people who want to live, work and raise their families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has a portfolio of more than $160 billion in loans and loan guarantees. Visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/ for additional information about the agency's programs or to locate the USDA Rural Development office nearest you.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).