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. 

Chronicle of Higher Education

A conference on the evolution and current state of immigration to be held on the Western Kentucky University campus April 25 will feature a graduate of the college who’s now at Harvard Law School and working with teenage refugees from Central America.

Mario Nguyen sees the refugee crisis first-hand in his work with Harvard Legal Aid. He says some people mistakenly think of the wave of immigrants from Central America as people coming to take American jobs.

“In reality these are 14-year-old children I’ve been face-to-face with, 13-year-olds, 12-year-olds, 16-year-olds, who had to literally cross a few countries on their own on foot. A lot of them have been sexually abused or physically abused.”

Nguyen says he’s been aware of immigration issues from an early age. His father was a refugee from Vietnam and his mother was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

The Bowling Green March for Science on April 22 is one of many satellite events being held across the country in support of the national march in Washington, D.C.

The national March for Science was sparked by Trump administration cuts to federal science agencies and the appointment of some national leaders who don’t accept scientific evidence for issues like climate change.

Bruce Kessler is head of the math department at Western Kentucky University. He says he will participate in the Bowling Green march to stand up for the value of science without regard to political affiliation.

I think it’s a good opportunity for folks who care about science and care about mathematics, we’re scientists too, to show the world we’re not bad folks, we’re not folks who have an agenda really, other than figuring the world out."

Rhonda J Miller

The Bowling Green-based International Center of Kentucky is not requesting any refugees from Syria for the next fiscal year. The center’s Executive Director Albert Mbanfu said Syrian refugees are not expected to be approved because the Trump administration considers them a "special concern."

Mbanfu said 40 Syrians were previously expected in Bowling Green, but that was halted by new federal guidelines.                 

“If I were to make a choice I would say Syrian refugees should be priority number one, taking into consideration what’s going on right now in Syria and the horrors that is going on there and the situation of the refugees in the refugee camps in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon,” said Mbanfu.

Rhonda J Miller

Kentucky is one of the top five states in the nation for drug overdose deaths. Leaders in law enforcement, medicine and mental health are struggling to find ways to slow the pace of this tragic epidemic. An addiction recovery residence for women in Henderson is adding creative expression – including dance - on the path to a healthier lifestyle. 

In a bright community room at the Women’s Addiction Recovery Manor in Henderson, Kentucky, dancer Tim June is choreographing a story.  

“I decided to choreograph the piece more towards the future rather than the past,” said June. He is one of one of 10 dancers from the Indianapolis troupe Dance Kaleidoscope collaborating with residents at the recovery center in a program called Turning Points.

Kentucky Association of Food Banks

The Kentucky Farms to Food Banks program is adding a new source of protein to help families in need get balanced nutrition. 

Tamara Sandberg is executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. She says there have been requests from food banks to increase healthy proteins.

“For the first time in addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re reaching out to egg producers in Kentucky that might have extras that they are not able to sell otherwise, that they’re willing to provide to us to give to food banks.”

The program is in the process of setting a fair price that helps producers offset the cost of providing eggs to food banks.

Somerset High School

Somerset High School is in line for a $6.5 million renovation. The application for funding is currently at the Kentucky Department of Education for review.

“At the high school, the renovations will be composed of an expansion of the cafeteria, some design aspects within the library, and ultimately updating HVAC and other electrical components throughout the majority of the building,” said Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively.

The oldest portion of the high school was built in 1910 and the renovations will maintain the historic character of the building. The school is a combination of three sections, built and renovated at different times over the decades.

Henderson County High School

Henderson County High School has accepted the first students for its new School of Fine Arts that will launch for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Forty-four students have been chosen in four 'pathways' – visual art, theater, voice and instrumental music.

Brian Ettensohn is fine arts coordinator at the high school. He said students had to go through a rigorous admission process.                   

“We had them, if they were in music, instrumental or voice, we had options that they could choose to perform. In visual art, we had three different drawings that they had to produce and then they could bring in anything above and beyond those three pieces.”

Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Kentucky has 700,000 residents who are deaf or hard of hearing. Community forums in Somerset April 11-13 and in Bowling Green May 16-18 will  offer families, friends, schools and employers a chance to find information and resources to better serve those with hearing issues. 

The three-day programs are sponsored by the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The Somerset program kicks off April 11 with a ‘Community Connect’ forum from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott. Staff from the commission will also be available from 3 to 7 p.m. on April 12 at the same location. Intrepreters and captioning will be available at the program. Anita Dowd is executive staff advisor for the commission. Dowd is deaf and said the population of Kentucky residents with hearing issues is often under-served and under the radar, partly because of the difficulty in communication. 

Southern Kentucky Film Commission

Southern Kentucky’s fledgling film industry is taking another step in its development. A casting call will be held in Cave City on April 11 for the second film to be produced in collaboration with the Southern Kentucky Film Commission.

The movie, called “Mail Order Monster,” is a family film about a young girl dealing with the death of her mother. The cast includes a variety of characters, including middle schoolers, a sheriff and an Italian restaurant owner.

Branscombe Richmond is one of the producers of the film. He says the open casting call signals an opportunity for Southern Kentucky.

“It’s important for Kentucky because we’re going to start to open up an opportunity to see if there is some talent that can ready to be in a motion picture and a television show. A lot of times the actors come from Hollywood or New York or Chicago, or wherever they have a pool of talent.”

Dancing Well: The Soldier Project

A Kentucky project that provides specially adapted community dances for military veterans with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury has been awarded a $10,000 grant.

‘Dancing Well: The Soldier Project’ received the grant from the Veteran’s Program Trust Fund.

The money will be used for a series of ten barn dances for veterans, their family members and friends in the Louisville area. The start date hasn’t been scheduled.

International Bluegrass Music Center

An Evansville construction company is getting a second chance on a showcase project for Kentucky’s signature music.

Danco Construction has been awarded the contract for the International Bluegrass Music Center. Danco was one of the original bidders on the project and came in second.

The city of Owensboro originally awarded the contract to Peyronnin Construction. The groundbreaking was held in June.

Construction halted when Peyronnin filed for bankruptcy in January.

Danco Construction President Dan Jones said his company is enthusiastic about taking on the important project and his crews will be on the job this week.

“We’re excited to be able to jump in and help the city of Owensboro get their project back on schedule, hopefully, and get it done by the end of the year schedule they originally had.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/ Gertrude K

Purple flowers across many fields in Kentucky and Indiana are more than flowering weeds.  An agriculture extension agent says those purple blooms are a sign of climate change and the increasingly unpredictable weather that farmers have to deal with.

Jon Neufelder is an educator with the Purdue University Extension Office in Posey County, Indiana. He said the flowers are purple deadnettle and henbit and they’re a sign of a warm winter and an early spring.

“We have them every year, but this year because of the warm February, they started flowering a lot earlier. So we’re seeing them a lot earlier. Usually we don’t see them until around April and by then the farmers have pretty well killed them off because they’ve started spraying for production.”

Neufelder said the warm winter has caused overall growth to be about two weeks ahead of schedule.

Pulaski County Alzheimer's Disease Respite Center

A Pulaski County day care center for people with Alzheimer’s is getting a reprieve, after it was scheduled to be shut down.

The Pulaski County Alzheimer’s Disease Respite Center planned to close on May 5 as a result of state budget cuts. But state Representative Tommy Turner, state Senator Rick Girdler and the Pulaski County Fiscal Court have banded together in an effort to keep the doors open, at least for a while.

The center’s executive director Pat Brinson says that political team is providing hope.       

“The county has found funding to now keep us open through June 30 and as a group, they are going to be evaluating if they can find funding to keep us open for another year.”

The funding for the remainder of this fiscal year is from the Pulaski County Fiscal Court.

Rhonda J Miller

A handful of southern Kentucky activists rallied at the Bowling Green office of U.S. Senator Rand Paul in support of a national campaign to urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to establish an independent investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rand Paul is a member of that committee.

Bowling Green resident Peter Zielinski said he used to be more politically conservative, but he attended the March 28 rally because he has concerns about national leaders appointed by President Trump.                          

“The history of many of the appointees is at least suspect,” said Zielinski. “There is a preponderance of people with ties to Russia and foreign governments and that’s just the tip of what we know, at this point. We don’t know the whole truth and we should know the whole truth.”

Bowling Green organizers are planning a local March for Science in support of the national event on April 22, which is Earth Day.

Scientists from around the country are planning the March for Science in Washington, D.C. The national event is a grassroots response to some of President Trump’s policies that threaten to cut funding for research and restrict the ability of scientists to publish their findings.

Environmentalists are also concerned because Trump appointed some leaders in his administration who deny that humans have a substantial impact on climate change.

The national and local marches are intended to spotlight the ways science is critical in daily life and for the future.

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