Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

October 10, 2013

Annual Ramey-Estep event celebrates rural heritage, potential for students

Rush — Halfway through her walk across the back parking lot at the Ramey-Estep High School, principal Ann Brewster found herself surrounded by chattering teenage girls.

Each of the girls cradled a small animal in her arms — here a chicken, here a cat, over there a lop-eared bunny. All of the girls wanted to share their new-found friends with Brewster and a visitor to the rural campus of the Ramey-Estep school.

“The chicken is my favorite,” said Andrea, who comes from Floyd County. Good thing, because that is just what she was holding, a snow-white hen resting quietly in her arms with its eyes patiently closed. “It’s soft and it’s pretty. If it was up to me I wouldn’t eat the chicken,” she said.

The visitor didn’t ask Andrea’s last name because students at the Ramey school and its associated residential treatment program come from troubled backgrounds. All of them have troubles in their lives because of which they have been sent to the school by the state Community Based Services or Juvenile Justice departments. The departments also guard their privacy by prohibiting direct photography of the students.

The girls had met the animals in a petting zoo brought to the school by local volunteer Ray Sammons. The zoo was one of 11 activity stops in the school’s annual harvest festival; other activities include making caramel apples and apple butter, cooking frontier style and hiking a hillside trail.

Brewster called it a celebration of the season and of rural heritage, but in a larger sense the festival is a celebration of possibilities and potential, of new ways of life away from the abuse, crime and gangs so many of the students were accustomed to before Ramey.

Many are sent to Ramey from Louisville, Lexington and other urban centers, and when they arrive, the tree-clad hills around the school might as well be the terrain of an alien planet. “They come here not knowing what a holler is ... a lot of the kids have never hiked in the woods. Some kids have never gone fishing,” Brewster said.

So when adult leaders take them out on the nature trail, hand them giant spatulas to stir apple butter, or show them how to dip wicks into wax to make candles, the lesson they learn is of a whole new life outside the city blocks they came from.

Brewster said one thing she tells every student, over and over, is that while they are at the Ramey school they are as safe as they can ever be — an assurance that itself is life-changing, she believes.

The festival reveals evidence that she is right — a group of teenage boys sits at picnic tables in a shelter, busily transforming a pile of paint stir sticks and scraps of cloth into miniature decorative scarecrows.

Chances are it’s an activity few of them would undertake at home for fear of risking ridicule, but in the grounds of the Ramey school they fold their bits of cloth precisely and meticulously, squeeze glue from a bottle to hold it all together.

When child care worker Steve Thomas suggests one of them name his scarecrow Jethro and rattles off the first verse of the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme, the boys laugh, even though the pop culture reference escapes them. Having harmless fun is safe at Ramey-Estep.

Little gestures are not so little at the school, according to Brewster. Students who have heard all their lives they are worthless need affirmation. “The smallest thing you do for these kids, they appreciate it this much,” she said, stretching her arms wide.

During the festival, which has evolved over the past decade from its original beginning as a simple apple-butter making exercise, the students assemble packages to send to service members overseas. Called Project Appreciation, the activity sends stationery, candy and other treats to the service members while instilling a life lesson at home.

The lesson is one of putting others above oneself, according to Shae, who comes from Lexington. “This place teaches you to care about others rather than yourself,” she said. When they assemble the packages for Project Appreciation, they are reminded of something they have in common with the service members who will open them: “We know it’s got to be hard being away from their families,” Shae said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

Text Only
Local News
  • jeremymccombs.jpg Jeremy McComb enjoys Tri-State's limelight

    Jeremy McComb’s career has been a wild ride, especialy in the last week.
    The lead single from his latest album was released on iTunes last week and it was a huge success right from the start.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Festival to showcase new plays

    The ACTC New Play Festival will feature 10 student and faculty written plays (short scenes, monologues, ten-minutes, one acts) that will premiere at 8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and at 2:30 p.m. April 27 at J.B. Sowards Theater on campus.

    April 17, 2014

  • 0420mongol1.JPG A ride to remember

    Riding 50 miles a day is no big deal to Amy Whelan.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418melodies.jpg Melodies & Masterpieces returns Friday

    Anyone strolling through downtown Ashland at lunchtime Friday will have a chance to enjoy the artistry of one of the area’s most-respected guitarists as Chris Kitchen kicks off the return of the Melodies & Masterpieces series on Judd Plaza.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418odell.jpg MSU professor appointed state geographer

    Dr. Gary O’Dell, a professor of physical geography at Morehead State University, was named state geographer in January.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill to benefit AK Steel

    During the 11th hour of the General Assembly, a bill extending important sustainable incentives for AK Steel’s Ashland Works was pushed through for approval Tuesday night.
    House Bill 483 was created to extend the plant's incentives provided by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act in 2004.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pathways begins autism services

    Pathways has extended its community outreach in a big way by providing services for families facing autism.
    Lena Harmon, central director for the company's Kentucky Impact Youth Council, said these services can save families the trouble of being added to long queue lines in Cincinnati and Louisville.
    Harmon said she has heard some families testify having to wait up to 12 months for appointments in faraway cities.

    April 16, 2014

  • Russell academic new dean at OUS

    Nicole Pennington chose a two-year community college degree track in 1991 because she wanted to enter the nursing work force with as little delay as possible.

    April 16, 2014

  • 1936 Indian lasting wedding gift

    When it came time to present his future wife with a symbol of his undying devotion, Virgil Erskine gave her a 1936 Indian motorcycle instead of a diamond ring.
    “I’ve always called it my wedding present. It’s my diamond ring,” said Charlene Erskine, explaining she and her husband were married at Sturgis, S.D., in 1983, found the antique Indian Sport Scout in 1984 and had it restored and on the road in 1985.

    April 16, 2014

  • Boyd Democrats take floor at Elks

    Boyd County Democrats met at the Elks Lodge for a matchup between candidates for two of the hottest primary races in Boyd County: sheriff and judge-executive.
    The candidates, sponsored by the Boyd County Democratic Women’s Club, each took to the podium to face the crowd Tuesday night and discuss the candidacy and platforms for the race that is still over a month away.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone