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Truth and Consequences: The Choice is Yours

By Elaine Belcher
Staff Writer

Johnson Central High School freshman participated in a Johnson County Extension Office event called Truth and Consequences: The Choice is Yours on Friday, March 24. A second session for seniors is scheduled for Tuesday, April 18.
Truth and Consequences guides students as they role-play scenarios including possession of prescription drugs; driving under the influence; sniffing; possession of alcohol; drug paraphernalia, or illegal drugs; trafficking; and stealing drugs and explores options and consequences with each decision.
“Scenarios of situations that have occurred across Kentucky are drawn by the student,” said Brenda Cockerham, Johnson County Family and Consumer Sciences agent. “For example they may have been caught smoking pot in the school parking lot. There are consequences to that choice- school counselor, see the principle, speak to law enforcement. The room is filled with the actual professionals who would be the ones the students interface with.”
Over 300 students circulated throughout each of the stations at the JCHS gym, speaking with Paintsville Police, Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies, representatives from the Johnson County Drug Court, Johnson County Attorney Michael Endicott, medical representatives from Highlands Regional Medical Center and Paul B. Hall Regional Medical Center, District Judge John Chaffin and many others came together to give real-world advice on what would happen in each scenario.
Follow up activities include viewing “Which Brain Do you Want” video, which is based on the research of what happens to the human brain when exposed to different substances and how this can alter it’s ability to function. Math and writing activities are to be undertaken in the classroom as a follow up as well. Students collected information about fees associated with each scenario. Exploration of additional affects both financially, physically, socially and how each person’s future potential might be impacted.
“Once they completed this, the group rotates to three additional stations. Each station has speakers focused on the top issues of our area,” said Cockerham. “This year it was heroin use. The HEAT (Heroin Education Action Team) group presented a testimonial of a mother losing her child to heroin addiction.”
The Drug Enforcement Agency representative from Lexington presented what happens during an accidental addiction, which is often the result of legally prescribed medications after surgery or an accident when pain medication is used. Since inception, the program has been replicated in 38 Kentucky counties reaching more than 10,500 youth and parents and 1,200 community partners in 2016.

Commit to Live Fit raises heart rates and funds for JCHS student council

By Elaine Belcher
Staff Writer

The Johnson Central High School Student Council, in an effort to raise funds for a student council trip to Savannah, Ga. over spring break, hosted a “Commit to Live Fit” event at the JCHS gym on Saturday, March 18 from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Curious work-out enthusiast and JCHS supporters got a chance to sample eight different 30-minute workout classes including Zumba, Pound, RIPPED, Body Sculpt, Barre, Piloxing, Urban Kick and PiYo.
“It was so much fun! I enjoyed working out with the instructors from Club Fitness and then shopping at the vendors! What a great fund raiser!” said Dana Link, participant.
The idea came from student council member Madison Grierson. “We wanted to do something besides the basic candles or cookie dough fundraiser, so I started thinking about fundraisers and events that we could do to get the community involved,” said Grierson. “I know a lot of people around here enjoy fitness classes so I thought it would be a great way to raise money.”
The student council reached out to local fitness centers to ask for assistance setting up classes. “I have attended a lot of fitness classes, so I asked the instructors that I have taken classes under and other instructors if they would be willing to donate their time and teach a 60 minute class,” said Greirson. “Toni Kincheloe from Club Fit Studios helped me contact instructors that I didn’t know.”
“We actually got such an overwhelming response from the instructors throughout Johnson County that I had to schedule eight 30 minute classes instead of four 60 minute classes,” said Grierson.
Turn out on Saturday was good for a first time event. “The recent commit to live fit fundraiser was a great way to exercise and support for kids from the community. I liked looking around at the vendors when you wanted to take a break. I’m ready for it again next year!” said Karla McCarty, participant.

Ribbon cutting held for American Metal Works
Officials from American Metal Works, the Paintsville/Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and other organizations held a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the American Metal Works facility on the Mayo campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College on Friday, March 17.

PAINTSVILLE– Dennis Rohrer remembers something a friend told him a long time ago. 
“The friend said, ‘You only have a short amount of time here, so you got to leave it better than you found it.’” 
That adage never rang more true than on Friday, March 17 when American Metal Works held a ribbon cutting and open house at its new location on the Mayo campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC). 
The event, hosted by the college and the Paintsville/Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, was a culmination of months of hard work from Rohrer and James Glass, the co-founders of American Metal Works, and many partners who helped turn this dream into a reality. 
The dream started last year when Rohrer and Glass visited a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) facility in Vincennes, Indiana. 
“We attended a graduation ceremony that had three Eastern Kentucky residents in the program,” recalled Rohrer. “I remember one of the instructors looking at me and saying, ‘You have the best resources – the people and their work ethic.” 
That spawned the dialogue of conversation among Rohrer and Glass, who had suffered from the downturn in the oil and gas industry in eastern Kentucky.  They both wanted to make a difference and provide an opportunity for people to be trained and find meaningful work in the region. 
Enter American Metal Works.
“This truly shows the ability and capability of our region,” said Rohrer. The company is leveraging resources such as the eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute in Paintsville to provide a pipeline of highly-skilled employees as the company grows. “I truly believe this is the dawning on a new day for eastern Kentucky.”
American Metal Works uses state-of-the-art CNC machining to provide services to industries, including automotive, aerospace, medical device and general manufacturing.
Glass told those in attendance that American Metal Works is a “perfect example of how a public and private partnership can improve lives and improve the region.”
“This marks the culmination of an idea,” added Glass. “How can we keep the talented workforce in the area and create businesses that capitalize on the skills of those displaced from the coal and oil and gas industries?”
Jared Arnett, executive director of Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) said Rohrer and Glass exemplify the attitude of his organization.
“James and Dennis put a lot on the line and a lot of risk not to make money but to make a difference,” said Arnett. “The reality of this project is that the impact is real and it is real to the people it will serve.”
Peter Hille, president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, described the American Metal Works project in one word – impressive. 
“We are not just standing in Paintsville,” said Hille.  “We are standing on the threshold of the American dream.” 
Kelli Chaney, dean of career education and workforce development at BSCTC, said the idea of business incubation builds on the need of entrepreneurship development across the region. 
“There’s no better people to address the issues facing us than our people,” she said. “What Dennis and James have been able to accomplish shows the resilience that is at the core of every person from eastern Kentucky.  We get knocked down, but we get back up.  This incubator is open for business and open to turn the dreams of a better eastern Kentucky into a reality to those who seek it.”
Chaney expressed her gratitude to Danny Tonkin, the director of business and industry at BSCTC, for his work in bringing the idea of a business incubator to fruition. 
“It took so many partners to pull this off, but the power of collaboration is a wonderful tool,” she said.
Some of the organizations that worked with the American Metal Works project included: Kentucky Power, Big Sandy Area Community Action Program, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation, Mountain Tech Media, Congressman Hal Rogers, Big Sandy Community and Technical College, Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, Inc., Small Business Development Center, SOAR and the Kentucky Procurement Technical Assistance Center. 
For more information on the Business Incubator at BSCTC, contact Tonkin at (606) 788-2812 or email

Trout wins Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition
Payton Trout, of Belfry High School, performed “Dream On” by Aerosmith at the Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition on Saturday, March 11 at the Mountain Arts Center.

PRESTONSBURG – For Payton Trout, the fourth time was a charm.
Trout, a 17-year-old Belfry High School senior, brought home the coveted title of Big Sandy Idol at the Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition on Saturday, March 11 in the Willard and Lucy Kinzer Theater at the Mountain Arts Center.
“It’s just amazing,” said Trout. “I want to think my friends, family and the Pond Creek Nation… they always come out in force.”
Trout, participating in his fourth straight Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition, had won crowd favorite, second runner-up and first runner-up in past competitions.
When his name was called out as the winner, it hit home.  The culmination of four years of hard work had finally paid off.
“I was shocked,” he admitted. “There were so many great vocalist in this competition.”
Trout brought spectators to their feet with a amazing rendition of the Aerosmith hit “Dream On.”  With his win, he earned a scholarship to Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), a spot with the elite Big Sandy Singers and Band, a full album recording at the MAC and a cash prize.
“This is what I wanted, because I plan to attend Big Sandy,” said Trout. “I hope to get my associate degree and transfer to a four-year school to study music theory and performing arts.”
Twenty-eight students representing high schools from across Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, Martin and Pike counties competed on March 10-11 at the MAC.  On Friday, March 10, runners-up from each school participated and one performer (Jondra Gibson of Shelby Valley High School) earned a wild card spot to perform on Saturday, March 11 in the final round of Big Sandy Idol.
Gibson finished as second runner-up and performed “Rise Up” by Andra Day.  Katie Ratliff from East Ridge High School was first runner-up.  She performed “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith.
Isabella Jacobs, of Prestonsburg High School, was the essay contest winner, and Jada Fields, of Sheldon Clark High School, was the social media winner.
The Big Sandy Singers and Band and the Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition, which is presented by Gearheart Communications and BSCTC, have awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships since its inception.
Clayton Case, director of fine arts at BSCTC and executive director of the MAC, said an event of this magnitude would not be possible without the support of their sponsors.
“I want to thank Gearheart Communications and the Gearheart family for their long-standing support of our college and this program,” said Case.  “We could not do any of this without them.”
Case also expressed his gratitude to Food City of Prestonsburg for sponsoring the hospitality room; Dr. Lee Boyd Pediatric Dentistry for sponsoring the Big Sandy Band; and Unique Boutique for providing services to the Big Sandy Singers and Band.
“It takes so much to put an event on of this caliber,” he said. “I want to thank the MAC employees and college volunteers for their work in assisting us before, during and after the show.”
 The Big Sandy Singers and Band performed both nights, and the Big Sandy Band accompanied each contestant at the regional competition.
“That speaks volumes about the talent we have at the college,” he said.
Case also wanted to thank Chesi Spriggs, the assistant director of fine arts at BSCTC, for her “tireless dedication of running the Big Sandy Idol program throughout the school year at all of the high schools.”
For more information on the Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition or the Big Sandy Singers and Band, contact Case at (606) 889-9125 or email

Big Idol 2017 scheduled for March 10-11 at MAC
PRESTONSBURG – The Big Sandy Idol Regional Competition, presented by Gearheart Communications and Big Sandy Community and Technical College, will be held March 10-11 at the Mountain Arts Center (MAC).
Tickets are $10 or $8 for groups of 10 or more. To purchase tickets, visit the MAC Box Office, log on to or call 1-888-MAC-ARTS.
Here are capsules of each of this year’s contestants:

  • City of Paintsville
  • Paintsville Independent Schools
  • Johnson County Schools
  • Our Lady of the Mountains

  • Johnson County Fiscal Court
  • Johnson County Public Library
  • Paintsville Tourism
  • Chamber of Commerce
    sponsored by: