Rhonda Miller

Reporter

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015.  She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.

She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio,  as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio.

She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass. 

WalletHub

The U.S. is in a state of uncertainty – and controversy– with impending changes on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, in the next few months. Immigration and diversity are ‘hot-button’ issues.

A new survey on diversity by the consumer website WalletHub found Kentucky near the bottom of rankings.   

WalletHub based its state-by-state rankings on diversity across several metrics, including household income, educational level, race, language, religion and variety of industries.  Kentucky came in at number 45 in the overall ranking of the most diverse states in America.

Henderson County Schools

Henderson County Schools have begun random drug testing of some students this academic year.

The random drug testing started this month at Henderson County High School, North Middle School and South Middle School. It applies to students in athletics and other extracurricular activities at those schools. Random drug testing is also for high school students who apply for a parking permit and anyone else opted in by their parents.

Megan Mortis is a spokeswoman for Henderson County Schools. She says the drug testing is confidential, with students identified by numbers.

“We are working with a private corporation that generates a random number of participants, 10 from the high school, three from North Middle and three from South Middle, that would be randomly selected every week. It is on random days and at random times.”

Wikimedia Commons

The rankings for the happiest states in America are in - and Kentucky is pretty far down the list. 

Kentucky residents won’t be cheered up by the state’s ranking of number 44 on the new WalletHub Happiness survey. The rankings are based on 28 metrics that include satisfaction with daily life, work environment, worries about money, rates of depression, volunteer rate and participation in sports.

In the category of ‘emotional and physical well-being,’ the Bluegrass State came in 46th.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Dave Dugdale

Kentucky's Republican governor wants to slash some spending by more than 17  percent this year to prevent a $200 million shortfall and protect the state's credit rating.

Gov. Matt Bevin's state budget director sent a letter to some state agencies on Friday. It says Budget Director John Chilton expects the state's reserve fund to run out of money when the fiscal year ends June 30, so it won't be available to help cover the shortfall. Chilton said exhausting the reserves could hurt the state's credit rating.

Heather Heyer memorial facebook

The Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky is honoring the woman who died during a white nationalist rally in Virginia that descended into deadly violence.

The center is posthumously giving Heather Heyer the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Social Justice.

Heyer was killed in August during demonstrations over the proposed removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

She was hit by a car that plowed into a crowd that had gathered to denounce the white supremacists.  

The 32-year-old Heyer was a paralegal known to stand up for causes of equality and justice.

The Ali Center says Heyer "embodied the spirit of the civil rights movement." 

Warren County Regional Jail

An 18-year-old student at Bowling Green High School was arrested Thursday on charges of terroristic threatening.

According to the arrest record from the Bowling Green Police Department, Rosalio Grajeda confessed to being involved in a plan that “would have likely resulted in death or serious injury to students and teachers at the school. He acknowledged that there was a plot to cause harm and confessed to researching past school shootings.”

Police department spokesman Ronnie Ward said no weapons were found and no students or staff were injured.

Grajeda is in the Warren County Reginal Jail.

Bowling Green School Superintendent Gary Fields said in a letter made available to the media Thursday that students reported the potential threat to administrators at the high school.

Rhonda J Miller

About 60 people marched in Bowling Green on Sept. 5 in support of DACA, or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.” It was one of many marches held across the country after President Trump’s announcement that he plans to end DACA, a program that has helped more than 800,000 young immigrants remain in the U.S. legally.

One of the marchers in Bowling Green was Briant Vargas, a former student at Western Kentucky University, who says he was born in the U.S. but his 21-year-old brother wasn't. Vargas says he thinks it’s inhumane to end DACA and interrupt a good life, like the one his brother is working so hard to achieve.

Francisco Serrano Facebook

President Trump has ordered an end to the program for young immigrants called DACA, or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”  The cancellation of that program is likely to impact several thousand young people who are students or are working in Kentucky.

In the Sept. 5 announcement to end DACA, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said there would be an orderly process of “winding down” former President Obama’s executive order that created the program protecting young immigrants from deportation. That “winding down” could affect thousands of people in Kentucky.

Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

A Pulaski County memorial to slaves buried in unmarked graves is moving forward with a grant and some media attention.

The Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial began as a response to the murder of nine African-Americans by a white supremacist during a Bible study in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015.

The memorial has been awarded a $1,000 grant from the Puffin Foundation, an organization that funds art projects often excluded from mainstream grants because of race, gender or social philosophy.


Sam Oldenburg, the Talisman

Tropical depression Harvey flooded roads and buildings across south central Kentucky Thursday night and Friday, causing many schools to be closed and activities canceled.

Warren County Emergency Management reports portions of about two dozen roads have been impassable at various times due to heavy rainfall.  

Kentucky Mesonet data shows between five and six inches of rain fell at monitoring stations from Smiths Grove to Bowling Green.

Rhonda J Miller

It’s a good sign of a healthy economy that businesses in the 10 counties of south central Kentucky have nearly 5,800 job openings and are eager to hire.

But a new report from the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce also shows there are about 7,200 people in the region who are unemployed.

Robert Boone is president and CEO of the South Central Workforce Development Board. He says finding compatibility between available workers and open positions is a big challenge.

Kentucky Mesonet

The Kentucky Mesonet dramatically increased data collection at its 68 weather and climate monitoring stations during the solar eclipse. 

Melissa Griffin is responsible for data quality for Kentucky Mesonet, which is based at Western Kentucky University. She says the data that came in during the eclipse provides almost a real-time collection of atmospheric conditions.

Rhonda J Miller

A new elementary school under construction in Warren County is the latest building in the school district designed to reduce, or eliminate, the cost of energy.  The energy program is even earning money for the district.

Construction equipment and work crews crisscross the site of the new Jennings Creek Elementary on Russellville Road in Warren County. The walls going up are made of material that’s dramatically cutting the cost of energy for Warren County Public Schools.

School District Energy Manager Jay Wilson says there’s no secret to reducing energy costs. It begins with the design of the building.

"It’s a combination of having energy efficiencies built into the building envelope, such as insulated concrete forms..."


Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency is about halfway through the cleanup of an Evansville site contaminated with lead and arsenic.

The contaminated site is 4.5 square miles in the Jacobsville neighborhood of Evansville. The lead and arsenic in the soil were left over from manufacturing operations that took place more than one hundred years ago.

The site is on the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List and the cleanup has been in progress for five years.

Jena Sleboda-Braun is the remedial project manager in the EPA’s Superfund Division for the Chicago region. She says residents are not being displaced during the cleanup.

Daviess County Animal Shelter

The Daviess County Animal Shelter has declared a “code red.”  That means the shelter is stepping up efforts to reduce the number of animals so it doesn’t have to euthanize healthy, adoptable pets.

There are currently 69 dogs, 83 cats and four rabbits.

Shelter Director Ashley Clark says there are several ways to avoid unnecessary euthanization.

“If we could have rescues and fosters and adopters to come in and help with the animals, it’s not going to one avenue that solves the problem. You know, we can’t adopt our way out of it, and we can’t foster our way out of it.”

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