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Southeast accepts gift for Higher Ground

CUMBERLAND and HARLAN — At a gathering at Pine Mountain State Resort Park, philanthropist Brook Smith of the Appalachian Impact Fund presented representatives of Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) with a $450,000 gift in support of the Higher Ground community performance project, a key feature of the college’s Appalachian Program.

This agreement will fund a Higher Ground creative director who will also serve as a Southeast faculty member. In addition, the college will create a for-credit curriculum that will lead to a self-sustaining program in theatre arts.

Southeast President Vic Adams says that he is grateful for the support: “Programming in the arts has become even more of a challenge in higher education. This generous gift is perfectly timed.”

Smith and his wife Pam have been leaders in supporting the arts and creative economy in Eastern Kentucky through the Appalachian Impact Fund (AIF), founded in 2017. To date, the AIF has invested over $1 million in grants to nonprofit partners and more than $700,000 in downtown revitalization throughout the region.

Retired Southeast Professor Robert Gipe, who began the Higher Ground project in 1997, echoes Dr. Adams’ sentiments. “We who have been a part of Higher Ground are very appreciative of Brook Smith’s recognition of this work and the community that produced it. We also appreciate Southeast’s continued commitment to the arts as integral to education, community development, and the quality of life in our area,” he says.

Says Dr. Adams, “The arts are a valued part of our Appalachian culture, one of the ways that we celebrate and preserve our unique heritage. Brook and Pam Smith and the Appalachian Impact Fund will help us to fulfill our mission and enrich the lives of our communities.”