PRESTONSBURG, Ky. – WDOC, Inc., which owns WQHY (95.5 FM) and WDOC (1310 AM) in Prestonsburg, Ky., joined Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) as an East Kentucky and Media Partner.

“As we work to reshape the narrative throughout Appalachia Kentucky, it is important to share this narrative throughout the region and our media partners play a critical role in this,” said Joshua Ball, associate executive director of SOAR.  “WDOC, Inc. has a long history of serving the people of eastern Kentucky, and we are proud to say that all of aspects of our marketing is created and produced by the top talent we have in Appalachia Kentucky.”

WDOC, Inc. will provide a variety of services to SOAR, including but not limited to advertising and production, as well as services to SOAR Innovation clients.

“We believe in the work of SOAR and the collaboration taking place across the region,” said Travis Shortt, sales manager for WDOC, Inc. “The development taking place across the region is an important part to our success as a regional radio station.”

To learn more about SOAR’s partnership program, please contact Ball at (606) 766-1160 or by email at joshua@soar-ky.org.

For more information on WDOC, Inc., visit http://q95fm.net/.




HAZARD, Ky. – Joshua Ball, associate executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), has been named to the board of directors of the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky.

Ball was appointed to a three-year term ending in December 2021.  The Challenger Learning Center located on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College, has been providing informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programming for school districts and students throughout eastern Kentucky since 1999. 

Ball joins a board made up of regional leaders from education, business, government, and medicine who are interested in STEM development in our region and building a more highly skilled workforce for tomorrow. 

“We are very pleased to have Josh join the Challenger Center board,” said Tom Cravens, director of the Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky.  “His knowledge of this region, along with his experience in higher education, workforce development, and community and economic development, will help focus the Challenger Center on the important skills development needed for our young people to attract those high-paying STEM careers.  He is a natural conduit for connecting our business community with STEM education in the region.” 

Ball said the role of facilities such as the Challenger Learning Center play a critical part in the transformation taking place across Appalachia Kentucky.

“The team at the Challenger Learning Center have a demonstrated track record of providing cutting-edge and relevant STEM education opportunities to children throughout the region,” said Ball. “Everything around us, in some way, shape or form, is driven by technology.  Providing opportunities for children to learn and explore may seem basic at its core, but it can have a transformative effect on a child. I firmly believe that our children harness the ingenuity and desire to use technology to transform Appalachia Kentucky.”

The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky is one of 43 Challenger Learning Centers located worldwide that was started in memory of the Challenger Space Shuttle astronauts who lost their lives in the 1986 space shuttle disaster.  This flight was NASA’s “Educational Mission” with teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard.  Challenger Learning Centers carry on this crew’s educational mission 33 years later by introducing students to exciting STEM education programs that inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in those fields. 

In addition to Ball, other newly-appointed Challenger Learning Center board members include:

·       Michael Cornett. Director of Agency Expansion and Public Relations with the East Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP)

·       Robin Gabbard, Executive Director of Teach for America

·       Dr. Molly O’Rourke, Pediatrician at Primary Care Centers of Eastern Kentucky 



The holiday season is such a special time in Appalachia Kentucky.  Gatherings with family and friends, the smell of apple cider and hot chocolate, warm cookies, candies and treats passed down from generations, it is truly a time to be thankful and reflect on the things in life that matter most – our faith, family, friends, and all that makes Appalachia Kentucky home.

Christmas is particularly special for me and my family (my wife, Bethany, and daughter, Rosiland) as we prepare to spend our first Christmas with our newborn, Harker Jax, who we welcomed on November 17. 

From a professional standpoint, it is also a time of reflection and gratitude.  Five years ago, the idea of SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) took root as a collaborative effort to address the challenges facing Appalachia Kentucky.  SOAR was created as an organization to address challenges and identify opportunities using the ingenuity and capacity of the people, businesses, and organizations in the region.

There have been many plans to “fix” Appalachia, specifically Central Appalachia, and while the plans were developed with good intentions, it created the ideology that our challenges were others to solve. 

Through SOAR, we acknowledged the challenges, we built a network of partners and stakeholders that represented all aspects of our region, we shared ideas, we blurred county and municipal lines, and we discovered opportunities to collaborate, to innovate, and to transform Appalachia Kentucky.

A Regional Blueprint for a 21st Century Appalachia was established.  This plan of action was developed for the people of Appalachia Kentucky by the people of Appalachia Kentucky.  Our blueprint provided basic structure and a plan for leveraging connectivity to disrupt pervasive poverty.

It is happening.  More than 1,700 people in Appalachia Kentucky are working remotely through the work of Teleworks USA and the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc. (EKCEP).  Digital Careers Now, a consortium consisting of Big Sandy, Hazard and Southeast Kentucky community and technical colleges, SOAR, and EKCEP, have partnered with companies like GDIT to bring 100 remote work opportunities through innovation hubs in Cumberland and Hazard.  This investment alone represents approximately $1 million for each community.

As we move closer to Christmas and the new year, I hope you are encouraged and inspired by the remarkable things happening across Appalachia Kentucky.  We’ve made significant progress, but there’s still much work to do.  Through our network of partners and stakeholders, we are drafting a new narrative for Appalachia Kentucky.  This narrative is one that frames our region as a hub for innovation and collaboration and celebrates the ingenuity of the people who call our mountains home.  We are building a 21st Century Appalachia. Together.

If you would like to learn more about our work and becoming a partner or stakeholder in our work, please feel free to contact us at info@soar-ky.org or by calling us at (606) 766-1160.  You can also learn more by visiting www.thereisafuture.org.

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas full of joy and cherished memories, and a new year of boundless opportunities.

– Jared Arnett is Executive Director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR)


SOAR Executive Board.jpg

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers and Governor Matt Bevin announced Kimberly S. McCann as chairperson of the executive board of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR).  McCann was elected to the position during a meeting of SOAR’s executive board on Tuesday, August 21 in Frankfort, Ky.  

McCann, of Ashland, Ky., is a partner at VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP.  She has served on the executive board of SOAR since its inception in 2014. 

 “Kim has been an instrumental part of SOAR since day one,” said Congressman Rogers. “Knowing first-hand the greatest challenges we face in Kentucky’s Appalachian region, Kim has been a consummate advocate for SOAR to drive innovative opportunities to create new jobs, expand broadband connectivity and reimagine our future holistically.” 

As McCann takes over the helm of the SOAR Executive Board, Rogers and Bevin will continue their commitment to the organization as principal officers. Their designee proxy members will be Karen Kelly, District Director for Rogers and Scott Brinkman, Secretary of the Executive Cabinet for Bevin.  

“This is an important transition for the organization, and it will further the transformative work of SOAR throughout communities across the Appalachian region of Kentucky,” said Governor Bevin.  “SOAR is the catalyst for people and communities to come together to address challenges and seize new opportunities.  I am excited to have Kim as Chairperson of the SOAR Executive Board, and I am confident that her experience and passion for the area will help SOAR continue its meaningful work.” 

McCann has a juris doctor degree from the University of Kentucky and earned her undergraduate degree from Eastern Kentucky University.  Her professional accomplishments include: Kentucky 40 Leaders Under 40, Legal Services Advocate of the Year (2009), Outstanding Kentucky Volunteer Award (United Way of Kentucky), YWCA Members Award (2001), Leadership Kentucky (1995).  She also has an extensive background with professional organizations, including the Kentucky Bar Association Past CLE Commission Chair, Kentucky Bar Association House of Delegates (Past Member), Kentucky Supreme Court Rules Committee, Kentucky Judicial Council, Ohio Bar Association, Boyd County Bar Association, Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, and Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission (Past Commissioner).  

“I am humbled and honored to be selected as chairperson of the SOAR Executive Board,” said McCann. “I want to thank Congressman Rogers, Governor Bevin and the SOAR Executive Board for their support and encouragement. I am excited to be a part of such a great Board. We are witnessing a transformation across the entire region which is bringing new excitement and opportunities which many could not imagine.  SOAR is committed to continue to collaborate with new and existing partners, provide a positive avenue to explore new ideas, and assist this region in reaching its full potential.”  

Jared Arnett, Executive Director of SOAR, said McCann exemplifies the spirit and work of SOAR.  

“Kim has been committed to SOAR since it was an idea,” said Arnett. “She has been a part of every milestone to date, from the formation of the organization to the creation of the Regional Blueprint.  I look forward to working with Kim in her new capacity as we work to build a 21st Century Appalachia.” 

Arnett is grateful to Congressman Rogers and Governor Bevin for their leadership and support of SOAR.  

“The work and leadership of Congressman Rogers and Governor Bevin have been instrumental, and I look forward to their continued support and guidance as we move forward,” said Arnett. “We are writing a new chapter in the history of Appalachia Kentucky.  This chapter is one we are authoring through a spirit of unity, collaboration, and innovation. We’ve come a long way, but there is still much more work left to do.” 

SOAR also welcomed new board members at the August 23 meeting.  They include:  

  • Chuck Sexton, President/CEO of One East Kentucky (through June 30, 2020) 

  • Andrew Scott, Mayor of Coal Run Village (through June 30, 2020) 

  • Dan Mosley, Harlan County Judge-Executive (through June 30, 2021) 

  • French Harmon, Pastor of Somerset Baptist Church (through June 30, 2021) 

  • Nate Haney, Senior Vice President of Braidy Industries (through June 30, 2021) 

  • Lynn Tipton, Paralegal at Tipton and Tipton (through June 30, 2022) 

Jean Hale, President, CEO, and Chairman of Community Trust Bancorp; Jim Host, retired CEO of Host Communications; and McCann have been reappointed to the Executive Board, along with the following ex-officio members Senate President Robert Stivers, Speaker of the House David Osborne, Magoffin County Judge-Executive Dr. Charles Hardin, and Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock. Donovan Blackburn, CEO of Pikeville Medical Center, is the treasurer. 

“I look forward to getting to know the new members of our executive board, and I am also glad to continue to work with those who have been reappointed,” said Arnett. “Our executive board represents the best and brightest in Appalachia Kentucky. They fully understand the scope and magnitude of our work, and I appreciate their dedication to our work.” 

Members of the executive board plan to attend the 2018 SOAR Summit on August 30-31 in Pikeville, Ky. at the East Kentucky Expo Center.  Registration is still open for the event at https://www.thereisafuture.org/summit18/ or by calling (606) 766-1160. 

To learn more about SOAR, visit www.thereisafuture.org  




CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) participated in a panel discussion at the Uniting Against Poverty: New Alliances and Partnerships conference at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government on Saturday, February 24.  

The session Arnett participated in was entitled “Big Ideas in Solving Local Poverty.”  It was a Ted-style session that highlighted local leaders who have experience building coalitions that move organizational missions forward and demonstrate the strength of collaboration.

“It was an honor to share the story of SOAR and the remarkable work of our partners in building a 21st Century Appalachia to such a distinguished audience,” said Arnett. “The power of SOAR is demonstrated through the commitment and passion of our partners, who are working on the frontlines of poverty alleviation each day.  They understand the complexities of our challenges, but they also understand that through the power of collaboration and innovation, we have the tools to overcome them and build a brighter future.”

Arnett spoke of the underlying task at SOAR of bringing opportunities to Appalachia Kentucky.  He highlighted a graphic of total employment in the eastern Kentucky region.  It was 216,610 in 2006.  In 2016, it was 171,262.

“With the employment numbers, we had to look at change driven by innovation,” said Arnett.  He also highlighted SOAR’s adoption as a Collective Impact organization, working to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems through an innovative and structured approach that make collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve lasting social change. “Our work is very complex.  On some issues, we are leading the charge.  On other issues, we are connecting the partners.  We take pride in being an instrument of collaboration that brings stakeholders to the table to work collectively to address an issue in a community or a region.”

Change must be disruptive, Arnett told those in attendance.  He highlighted the Regional Blueprint, a plan for Appalachia Kentucky that was crafted by the input of thousands of people from across the region.  The plan highlights seven areas of focus: Regional Food Systems, Regional Tourism Development, Industrial Development, Healthy Communities, Small Business in the Digital Economy, Broadband Infrastructure Expansion, and a 21stCentury Workforce.

“The future of Appalachia Kentucky hinges on our ability to embrace technology and become a participant in the 21st century digital economy,” said Arnett.

If you would like a representative of SOAR to speak to your group or organization, please call (606) 766-1160 or email info@soar-ky.org.


FRENCHBURG Ky. – Joshua Ball, associate executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR), was the keynote speaker at the Frenchburg/Menifee County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet at the Clark Energy Building on Thursday, April 19.

Ball framed his remarks around one central theme: “To believe in the hope of a brighter tomorrow, we must seize the opportunities of today.”

Menifee County was recently awarded an Opportunity Zone distinction from the state, and he encouraged those in attendance to work together, communicate, and collaborate to bring new opportunities to Menifee County.

“You are the backbone of this community,” Ball told those in attendance. “You are business owners, business leaders, and citizens who are active and care deeply about your community. You’ve weathered the storms and remained committed to your community.”

Ball spoke of SOAR’s work in community and economic development.  He also highlighted the seven goals of the organization’s Regional Blueprint for a 21st Century Appalachia.  Those goals are: broadband, workforce development, creating new business and expanding existing businesses, healthy communities, industrial recruitment, local and regional foods, and tourism.

“This plan is your plan,” Ball told attendees. “The people of Appalachia Kentucky have identified these goals, and we are working everyday to see that these goals are achieved.  We can’t do this without you.  We are here to support your work and to promote an attitude of collaboration and innovation.”

Ball stressed the importance of SOAR’s work with aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“I’m sure there are small business owners in Frenchburg and Menifee County that have a dream to grow their business, build capacity, and hire more employees,” Ball said. “I encourage you to do that.  You are the fabric of this community, and your place here, no matter how small your business may be, is important to the future of this region.”

Ball concluded his remarks by thanking the Menifee County High School Culinary Arts program students.  They prepared the meal for the banquet.

“I’m so glad you are doing things to involve your youth,” he added. “They need a seat at the table.  After all, they are the future of the region, and I am convinced every day that the future of Appalachia is as bright as ever.”

For more information on SOAR, visit www.soar-ky.org.