The endeavor, which is initiated every year by the Harlan County Conservation District, strives to teach youth the fundamentals of soil and water care, plus offer them recognition for their talents in the process.
"Tonight, we are here to recognize the outstanding achievements of the youth of Harlan County for their efforts in observing soil and water stewardship," said David Howard, who serves on the board of supervisors for the Harlan County Conservation District. He served as emcee during the group's annual banquet held Tuesday night at Harlan Baptist Church where students were honored for their involvement.
"Local conservation districts like ours have celebrated soil and water stewardship for the past 49 years."
During Tuesday night's banquet, winners of the highly competitive Jim Claypool poster and essay contests, along with the presentation of the J. Clark Metcalfe Memorial Scholarship and Conservation Educator of the Year were named. According to Howard, the National Association of Conservation Districts selects a theme every year and distributes materials through the nation's 3,000 local conservation districts to educators, youth groups and church leaders.
This year's theme for the poster and essay contest was "Kentucky's Soil: It Touches All Of Us."
The competition was open to students in grades 1-6 for the poster contest and grades 7-12 for the essay contest. In Harlan County, over 600 participants took part.
Art contest finalists include: from Harlan Middle School: Jecorey Fields, third; Jason Hutchinson, second; and Esther McMillen, first; from Evarts Elementary School: Sam Stallard, first; from Harlan Elementary School: Anthony Long, third; Chelsea Clem, second; and Dylan Brewer, first; from Rosspoint Elementary School: Patricia Vandagriff, third; Kristie Williams, second; and Sandra Perkins, first; from Green Hills School: Ashley Lewis, third; Brooke Curry, second; and Megan Crain, first; from Holy Trinity School: Holden Jackson, third; Kelsey Branson, second; and Floyd Gregory, first; and from Cawood Elementary School: Tiffany Jo Miniard, third; Joey Shepherd, second; and April Goldsberry, first.
The county runner-up was Harlan Elementary School's Dylan Brewer, and the overall county winner was Rosspoint Elementary School's Sandra Perkins. She placed ninth in the area and will receive a plaque plus a $100 savings bond for her achievement.
Writing contest finalists include: from Cawood High School: Emily Balenovich, first; from Holy Trinity School: Brian Barrett, third; Ayla Maria Coblentz, second; and Forrest Hollins, first; from Cumberland High School: Natasha Reader, third; Brooks Hogue, second; and Sarah Cornett, first; from Green Hills School: Denna Burkhart, third; Blake Turner, second; and Brittany Wilson, first; from Rosspoint School: Brooke Sergent, third; Dustin North, second; and Mykia Wooten, first; from Harlan High School: Geraldine Tiu, third; Amanda Fain, second; and Georgianne Tiu, first; from Evarts High School: Kristy Osborne, third; Brittany Couch, second; and Heather Kelly, first; and from Harlan Middle School: Patrick Ball, first.
The county runner-up was Evarts High School's Heather Kelly, and the overall county winner was Harlan High School's Georgianne Tiu.
This year's J. Clark Metcalfe Memorial Scholarship was presented to Robert Tyler Wright of James A. Cawood High School. Son of Tommy and Ginna Wright of Coldiron, Wright plans on attending the University of Kentucky, majoring in civil engineering with emphasis on environmental design.
The J. Clark Metcalfe Memorial Scholarship is presented to a high school senior with outstanding achievement and character, and whose college major is in a conservation-related field. The scholarship is named in honor of Jerry Metcalfe, who served on the Harlan County Conservation District Board of Supervisors for many years until his death in January of 2002. He was instrumental in implementing the scholarship along with additional runner-up scholarships at the Harlan County Scholarship Banquet for a total of approximately $6,000 annually to local high school seniors.
Vickie Qualls, a second and third grade teacher at Hall Elementary School, was named as the Conservation Educator of the Year. Qualls has been teaching for 25 years, stressing such topics as conservation, agriculture, natural resources and ecology. Her students have won honorable mention or top place in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture poster and essay contests for several years in a row. Qualls and her students also conduct "Project Greenhouse," a project in which they plant, study and grow vegetables and flowers in the classroom.
Qualls wasn't able to attend Tuesday night's banquet. Her colleague, Chamayne Lowe, accepted the award on her behalf.
Ken Cooke, coordinator of the Kentucky Water Watch Program, was the banquet's guest speaker. The program, which was started in 1985 by the Kentucky Division of Water, consists primarily of volunteers who are dedicated to protecting streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands. Their efforts range from biological and chemical monitoring and reporting to youth and adult education programs.