There is nearly a 10 year age difference between Adair County siblings Kyle Mann, 22, and Brandi Blackburn, 31, but the brother and sister duo have never been closer.
Growing up they had the same drive for success – they both attended the same undergraduate school, the same graduate school, and they both went into the health field for their careers. Before all of that, they were both a part of the Rogers Scholars program at The Center for Rural Development.
Brandi was a part of the 2002 Rogers Scholars class. During Brandi’s stay in the program she experienced a lot of different things: mountain climbing, entrepreneurship, computer technology and networking among like-minded students her own age.
In 2002, Brandi gave a speech at a monthly chamber of commerce luncheon describing her experience with the program.
“The week I spent at the Rogers Scholars program could not last forever, but the memories, friendship, connections and knowledge I gained will,” Brandi said in her 2002 speech. “To experience viewpoints and perspectives from other students from across the state was an education within itself. It whet my appetite for a variety of knowledge and provided insight into career options I never considered.”
“The Rogers Scholars program also instilled in me the need to strive for a better community and a Kentucky that provides opportunities for students, like myself, to stay and fulfill our dreams in our home state,” she continued.
Kyle was a part of the 2010 Rogers Scholars class. For Kyle, it was about development and expanding his opportunities for the future. Like Brandi, Kyle also shared his experience with the local chamber of commerce.
“The Rogers Scholars program is not about how smart you are, but how much character and commitment you have to make your community a better place through community service […] The program instilled in me the need to strive for a better community that provides opportunities for students, like myself, to stay and fulfill our dreams in our home state,” Kyle said in his speech.
Today, Brandi lives with her husband and works in Somerset where she is a hospitalist for Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, while Kyle lives in Louisville where he attends the U of L School of Dentistry.
For both of the siblings, the Rogers Scholars program was about networking and being around individuals who inspired each other towards success.
“I was introduced to a group of people with big dreams,” Kyle said in an interview this past February. “The program inspired us to follow these dreams. The Rogers Scholars program gave me the confidence to follow my dreams.”
“Networking is important,” Brandi said. “It’s essential for motivated and bright youth to be exposed to diverse rich experiences alongside other like-minded individuals. Rogers Scholars offered a glimpse at what Kentucky has to offer.”
Kyle believes that the program plants the seeds essential for long-term development for students in Eastern Kentucky.
“The Rogers Scholars program is important for rural areas because of the seeds it plants in the students that go through the program,” he said. “The investment in Eastern Kentucky’s future helps fulfill The Center’s mission of progressing Eastern Kentucky. It also empowers students to take charge of their futures and encourages them to support their communities through leadership and service.”
“Creating opportunities for our rural youth in our own backyard is essential to building and bettering our communities,” Brandi said.
The Rogers Scholars program has graduated 1,123 high school students since 1998. We provide the opportunity for students to apply for scholarships from 17 Kentucky colleges and universities. To learn more, visit centeryouthprograms.com.