Welcome to AppalachianConnection.org

While Appalachian Connection was founded in 2015 and awarded its inaugural scholarship in April 2016, our website has been non-existent. But that’s about to change. Today we are pleased to announce the launch of AppalachianConnection.org.

Better late than never, right?

We are very excited to finally have a website to help spread the word about our mission to send bright, aspiring Appalachian high school students to college. We would like to send out a big thank you to the Appalachian Ministry Network, who generously gifted us the domain name appalachianconnection.org. We would also like to thank you for visiting and encourage you to come back often. Here are a few ways we plan to use our website.

  1. The website will be the portal for all things about the Scholarship and we will introduce the ability to apply online when the time comes.
  2. We plan to have annual events to help us raise money and, just as importantly, have FUN in the community. Check out our Events section to find out what’s coming up.
  3. Our past scholarship recipients will be checking in via Blog posts to let us know how their studies are progressing and what they are up to.
  4. Our Donors section will do features on certain donors from time, so that the community knows who is supporting us and why.
  5. We plan to keep an active Blog, that will feature stories and links to stories we think are important and show our region in a positive light.

Enter to win two SECOND ROW seats at Rupp Arena to see UK vs Florida!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The entry period is now over. We are no longer accepting entries. We raised over $1300 thanks to all of our generous participants! We will be announcing the winner on Thursday, February 28 by 5:oopm EST. Check back here then to find out who won!

Calling all UK fans!

Enter to win two 2nd row, half court seats for the Kentucky – Florida game at Rupp Arena on March 9 for Senior Night! Every entry gets you a chance to win these amazing seats and every dollar goes directly to a hard-working Appalachian student’s college tuition.

This picture was taken from the actual seats the winner will receive (that’s the back of Tom Leach’s head in the photo). So don’t wait, enter now for a chance to win the experience of a lifetime, and feel great knowing the money goes to a good cause.

Go to https://appalachianconnection.rallyup.com/uk-florida to enter! And Go CATS!

Donation Match! Run for the Hills 2018

We are very excited to announce that we will be participating in the 2018 Run For The Hills Charity Challenge in Hazard, Kentucky! The event will take place on Saturday, October 6 in downtown Hazard, and representatives from Appalachian Connection will be there to root on and support our dedicated runners. But the good news is that you don’t need to run to participate. You can show up to take part in the fun, or you can use the event to support Appalachia financially by making a donation that will be fully matched up to $5000. That’s right, every penny you donate to Appalachian Connection during the month of October will be doubled by our friends at the Foundation For Appalachian Kentucky!

IMPORTANT: If you choose to make a donation, please do so through our partner’s website, designate Run For The Hills and specify Appalachian Connection in the note section of your donation, otherwise we will not receive credit for the donation.

Since 2011, The Run for the Hills Charity Challenge campaign has put over $1,000,000 of local money back into local organizations that do critical work in our community. Created by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, the event brings the community together to help raise money as part of the Charity Challenge campaign. The Foundation works with local Charity Challengers to match donations, in order to build permanent endowments for participating organizations like Appalachian Connection. These endowments increase our community’s capacity to do great work, both now and in the future.

Then, on October 6 the community hosts a 5K run/walk through the heart of Hazard to celebrate. Please support us and make your donation by October 31!

Appalachian Connection Awards 2018 Scholarship

Appalachian Connection is pleased to announce the recipient of its 2018 scholarship. Ms. Danika Riddle, a senior at Perry Central High School was awarded the scholarship on May 8th, 2018 at a ceremony at her school. Danika will receive a grant in the amount of $10,000 to be used towards her higher education. She plans to begin her studies at Eastern Kentucky University in the Fall.

Danika Riddle, the 2018 winner, along with Appalachian Connection board members (from left) Patrick Farrell, John Cornett, and George Fitz

John Cornett, President of Appalachian Connection states, “Danika is a terrific representation of our mission at Appalachian Connection. We have no doubt she is going to come back and make a positive impact on the people of our region.”

Danika is planning to pursue a degree in psychology while at Eastern Kentucky University. After completing her education, she plans to return to Perry County and pursue a career as a social worker. Inspired by her mother’s selflessness and the support she received from Kentucky River Community Care after the death of her father, Danika is passionate about helping people overcome obstacles. She intends to use these skills to make a positive impact on eastern Kentucky.

When asked what it meant to receive the 2018 Appalachian Connection Scholarship Danika stated, “To be chosen as the recipient and perceived as a worthy candidate means people see potential in me. It is a potential I often struggle to see in myself, so for others to see that in me is life changing!” As the Appalachian Connection scholarship recipient, Danika also stressed that she wants to “show kids of the Appalachian region that going to college is a realistic option that they shouldn’t pass up. With this scholarship I have the potential to assist my region in becoming a place where people want to return.“

Appalachian Connection was established in November 2015. Its mission is to ease the financial burden of higher education for deserving students in Appalachian schools. Appalachian Connection is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization that provides scholarships to four year colleges. The scholarships have a value of $10,000 ($2,500 per year) and are awarded to applicants who demonstrate academic achievement, impact in the community, and a desire to utilize their education to help further our Appalachian region.

Congratulations to Danika.



2017 Appalachian Connection Scholarship Winner, Stacie Fugate Writes about her Heroes

The following was written by our 2017 scholarship recipient, Stacie Fugate. 


There are countless stories of people who have made the world a better place. Microbiologist Maurice Hilleman developed over thirty-six vaccines and saved more lives than any other medical scientist in the twentieth century. J.K. Rowling inspired a new generation of readers. Lilly Ledbetter fought for equal pay. Rick Rescorla organized a 9/11 evacuation despite being ordered otherwise. Rosa Parks simply said “no.” The list of unsung heroes goes on and on. Their acts of bravery, courage, and determination may have just been “doing the right thing” at the time, but the aftereffects changed history as we know it.

One could say that the same acts are being carried out by an organization called Appalachian Connection. This nonprofit gives high school seniors in Perry County, Kentucky not only a major scholarship opportunity, but also another way to defy stereotypes of our region.

Stacie, on her first day at UK

Being from Southeastern Kentucky is no small feat. People from our region are often ridiculed for things that aren’t completely accurate. We are plagued by negative stigmas brought on by national news sources. In fact, if I were to ask an outsider about our area, a black and white photo of Lyndon B. Johnson promoting the War on Poverty while squatting on a front porch in Inez, Kentucky would probably come to mind. Those not from here may reference ‘A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains’ when trying to picture what we’re actually like. The truth is, yes, Appalachia has its problems like anywhere else, but there is so much more to us than what is portrayed, which is why I’m thankful that I got to meet the 100 Days in Appalachia crew at the New Story 2017 conference. They inspired me with their grit and motivation to change the idea that many people have of Appalachia.

After meeting with the people of 100 days and gushing to my peers about the awesome work they’re doing, we felt as though it was our job to also challenge stereotypes that doubted our intelligence, mocked our culture, and were downright silly. (News flash: we DO wear shoes!) We broke school records for highest test scores, a few of us were nationally competitive in speech and debate, and community involvement was at an all-time high with my graduating class. Finally, we decided to put these accomplishments to good use and apply for the next step in our lives: college.

The Hazard High School Class of 2017 collectively earned over one million dollars in scholarships. Most of us were accepted to the school of our dreams. Now, we’re about to move into our dorms and make waves in the rest of the country’s idea of our region. I and so many others are able to do this simply because individuals in our community believed in us. People that we looked up to. Our heroes.

The group of people at Appalachian Connection are some of my own personal heroes. They want to enrich our community all the while believing that our students will surely garner a positive return.

I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to attend my dream school, the University of Kentucky, completely debt free. For me, and many others to come, the Appalachian Connection Scholarship is a blessing not only monetarily speaking, but also because I have such a solid support system. I never go without reassurance that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to, even at a huge school such as UK.

Acts of bravery, kindness, and even determination, no matter how big or small, just might make one person someone else’s hero. Kyle Carpenter is the youngest living soldier to ever receive the Medal of Honor. Stephen Hawking defied every boundary possible in his lifetime. Candy Lightner successfully organized and promoted the danger of driving under the influence. The people of Appalachian Connection are changing lives of Eastern Kentucky students, one scholarship and word of encouragement at a time. What a bunch of heroes. I am forever grateful that I get to work with them.

Appalachian Connection awards its 2017 scholarship

Appalachian Connection is pleased to announce the recipient of its 2017 scholarship. Ms. Stacie Fugate, a recent graduate of Hazard High School was awarded the scholarship on April 20, 2017 at a ceremony at her school. Ms. Fugate will receive a grant in the amount of $10,000 to be used towards her higher education. She plans to continue her studies at the University of Kentucky in the Fall.

Stacie Fugate

“We had an absolutely amazing group of applicants this year,” said John Cornett, President of Appalachian Connection. “Everyone already knows that there are loads of incredibly bright and talented young people in Appalachia. But we had the unique privilege of really digging in and getting to know some of these folks, and when you do that it will absolutely blow your mind to witness the smarts and talents of this new generation of Appalachian youth. We ultimately chose Stacie because we felt she fit perfectly into our mission to find young people who will work hard throughout their lives to be a positive force in the Appalachian region. There’s no doubt Stacie will be a great asset to all those in her community throughout her life.”

Besides an impressive academic resume, Ms. Fugate has served in many leadership roles. She has served as a student advisor to the Hazard School Board, served as President of Hazard High School Theater, and created a self-started service project called No Princess Left Behind, which is focused on obtaining dresses, make-up, and other products and services for young women who cannot afford those amenities for prom. Stacie has been a member of the soccer team, academic team, and speech team. She has also served on the Appalachia Renaissance Initiative’s Student Senate, working regionally to add young voices to current economic revitalization initiatives.

Appalachian Connection was established in November 2015. Its mission is to ease the financial burden of higher education for deserving students in Appalachian schools. Appalachian Connection is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization that provides scholarships to four year colleges. The scholarships have a value of $10,000 ($2,500 per year) and are awarded to applicants who demonstrate academic achievement, impact in the community, and a desire to utilize their education to help further our Appalachian region.

Congratulations to Stacie.

An update from Lauren, our 2016 Scholar

In 2016, Appalachian Connection awarded its inaugural scholarship to Lauren Little from Hazard High School. Lauren is now attending Alice Lloyd College where she is a second semester freshman (although rapidly moving up classes!). She will be checking in on the blog occasionally to let us know how she’s doing:

I had a great first semester at college, and because of all the dual credit classes and hard work I put in during high school I am already one semester and a couple summer classes away from being a junior. My first semester has caused me to face challenges and overcome them. It was hard to find things to like because I missed home, but moving from Hazard to Pippa Passes isn’t all that different. It’s comforting to be in a place that is still like the small town I love. This new environment has allowed me to meet many new people. All of the faculty, teachers, and students I have had the pleasure of working with are exceedingly friendly and supportive, maintaining that small town feel. Many of whom congratulated me when they saw the WYMT feature where John and George presented me with the Appalachian Connection scholarship. Along with my scholarship I am employed through the work study program and a job outside of school. Thanks to this combination I will not have any trouble paying for my college educationAlice Lloyd is a tuition guaranteed school so no students have to pay tuition if they live in the 108 county service area; however, every student still has to pay for room and board, matriculation fees, books, and other such expenses. For resident students, this all adds up to close to $9,000, but after my financial aid and scholarship are added in the cost is lowered to a considerably more manageable amount. Without this scholarship, I would not be able to live on campus which would have taken away from my college experience, accessibility to the library, studying time for classes, and not to mention adding gas money and a two hour commute every day. I hope that people continue to donate to this foundation so that the Appalachian Connection Scholarship can help more students like it did me. 

Hazard Herald Features Appalachian Connection in their October 4 edition

The Hazard Herald Voice did a nice story on what we’ve been up to. You can check it out here:

Non-profit gives back to Appalachia

Appalachian Connection featured on WYMT-TV

On September 7, Appalachian Connection board members John Cornett and George Fitz appeared on the WYMT-TV evening news, along with our 2016 Scholar Lauren Little, to talk about the launch of Appalachian Connection. Lauren Osborne, a reporter with WYMT-TV did a fantastic job describing our mission. A huge thank you to all the staff at WYMT for helping spread the word. You can see the entire interview here.

Here is a transcript:

PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT)- Earlier this year, the first ever Appalachian Connection Scholarship was given to a Hazard High School student.

The scholarship was created by folks who grew up here that have since left the area, but say their mission is to help Appalachia in the years ahead.

John Cornett and George Fitz, who are from Hazard, are part of the effort.

“We’re seeking to connect students from Appalachia to higher educational opportunities,” said Cornett.

Cornett says two years ago he sat down with a classmate from the Air Force Academy, Patrick Farrell.

They started planning a way to give back to their home. So they created the Appalachian Connection, a $10,000 dollar scholarship for high school students in Appalachia.

“We hope that they further their education and bring the skills they learned back to Eastern Kentucky,” said Cornett.

The scholarship was presented back in April to Hazard High School student Lauren Little.
Little says she has big dreams for herself and Eastern Kentucky.

“This scholarship is going to help me be able to go to Alice Lloyd and get a pre-med and biology degree to go into the medical field so I can come back here and do great things for the people here,” said Little.

Leaders say the scholarship is for high school seniors in Perry County headed to a four year college.

Appalachian Connection teams up with Amazon Smile

amazon_and_AppConnIf you are an Amazon shopper, two small steps will allow you to continue shopping at Amazon and benefit our scholarship at the same time.

  1. Go to smile.amazon.com and designate us as your charity.
  2. Do all your shopping from smile.amazon.com and we will receive some of the proceeds.

Remember, you must use the URL smile.amazon.com whenever shopping at Amazon for us to receive the benefit. Thank you and happy shopping!