Philip Parsons

Celebrating Veteran’s Day is a way to honor the service of all those who have served our country, including 335,000 military veterans in Kentucky. 

Some have enrolled in higher education to further their civilian careers, including 400 veterans currently enrolled at Western Kentucky University.

One of those students is 36-year-old Army veteran Philip Parsons of Morgantown. He served in the infantry for 13 years as a rifleman and machine gunner, and rose to the rank of staff sergeant.

Parsons served in Iraq, suffered through PTSD, depression and divorce, and at one point, attempted suicide.

Parsons says the difficulties don’t end when you leave the military. He spoke with WKU Public Radio's Rhonda Miller about his mission now to help other veterans through some of those challenging times.

Miller: So now you’re at Western Kentucky University. How did you manage to get to school? What was that transition?

Parsons: It was very difficult. It was intimidating. I was drawing unemployment and that was coming to its end. I was down at the unemployment office here in Bowling Green and I saw a pamphlet for Veterans Upward Bound. I’d always wanted to go to college.

Miller: What attracted you about that brochure? Was there a phrase or anything that attracted you?

Parsons: Yes, it was something about education and preparing veterans for college. And I was like, “Oh, maybe they can show me the way.” As a soldier that’s really one of our biggest challenges I find outside. We don’t have enough people to show us the way. Because that’s how we’re trained. We’re trained to follow or lead. But even if you lead, because you already know, ‘cause you’ve already been trained or taught. But not when you get out, there’s nothing. There’s nobody. You’re just by yourself. Some of that transition, if you don’t have somebody there to kind of lead you along or tell you, it becomes very difficult.

Miller: What are you studying and how did you determine what your studies should be?

Parsons: I’m studying social work. The idea is so I can become a therapist and work with other veterans.  

Why?  Really, because of my story and my experiences of just needing help. I just didn’t know what to do. There’s still a lot of that soldier inside of me and I need to still continue to look back for my other fellow brothers and sisters who are struggling.

Miller: You’ve been in college quite a while now.

Parsons: Yes, I’m a senior now.

Miller: What are the challenges you faced, being a student among 20,000 young students, who may have just come from high school and haven’t faced the kind of things you’ve faced?

Parsons: So being here with this large group, sometimes with the amount of people, at times, there was a little bit of anxiety.

Miller: What makes you anxious, when you’re on campus or in school?

Parsons: The strangest stuff. In the military, you’re just trained to look for something wrong. You come out here and you don’t really stop it. You’re so alert and so aware of things that look out of place, and there are so many things here that look out of place, coming from such a structured military. environment.

Miller: What would look out of place, for instance?

Parsons: OK, so just walking to class and you notice people up on the roof, fixing the roof. Or a car that’s parked where it’s not supposed to be parked. We have a lot of that here.

Miller: So these are things that would be an alert, like a red flag, if you’re in combat?

Parsons: They would definitely heighten your awareness.

Miller: Well, you’ve gone a long way through the military and through college now, and just kind of looking at everything now, what’s your vision of your life, what you want to do?

Parsons: My graduation is going to be in spring and then hopefully, in the fall, I’ll start my master’s program here at Western.  And after that, either to continue in school and get my doctorate or to go right to work with the VA helping veterans. No matter what I do from here on out, it’s going to be helping people.

Miller: Well, Philip Parsons, thank you so much for talking with us. It’s been just very wonderful speaking with you and thank you for sharing all that with us.

Parsons: You’re welcome, Rhonda.


Note: You can see a televised interview featuring Philip Parsons on our sister station WKU-PBS on the weekly public affairs program OUTLOOK, airing Saturday, Nov.14 at 7:30 p.m. Central time and Sunday, Nov.15 at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Central. The interview will be available on the wkuetv You Tube Channel Tuesday, Nov. 17.   

School officials will be offered special training following several threats that have shut down or caused evacuations at public schools in Kentucky.

Director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety Jon Akers tells media outlets that he estimates there have been at least 17 such threats this school year.

Akers says in the past two months, "it's risen to the level where there's immediate concern."

Akers says he'll offer workshops to school district officials in December and January in four regions of the state.

Akers says he expects to bring in a retired captain from the state police and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official to help with the training.

Lincoln County Schools were canceled Monday after a graffiti threat was found over the weekend.

Beshear Reveals Anti-Bullying Recommendations

Oct 20, 2015

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says the state should define bullying and pay for mental health counselors in public schools to help address it.

The recommendations are the result of a yearlong study by Beshear's Youth Bullying Prevention Task Force. The 26-member committee released its final report on Tuesday.

Kentucky already has 15 laws that address bullying, but none of them defines what bullying is. Beshear said that makes it difficult for school officials to identify bullying and report statistics. In 2013, a survey of by the Kentucky Department of Education found 15,512 incidents of bullying in the 2012-13 school year.

The task force included 11-year-old Morgan Guess of Paducah. Guess started an anti-bullying foundation after she was bullied at school so much that a doctor prescribed her antidepressants.

Nine semifinalists for the 2016 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Award have been named.

The Kentucky Department of Education and Ashland Inc. made the announcement Monday.

Elementary school semifinalists are Joshua DeWar of Engelhard Elementary in Jefferson County, Sarah Lockard of A.C. Glasscock Elementary in Marion County and Michele McCloughan of Bowling Green Independent's T.C. Cherry Elementary.

Middle school semifinalists are Karen Mallonee of College View Middle in Daviess County, Rick Rafferty of Fort Thomas Independent's Highlands Middle and Carmen Thompson of Elkhorn Middle in Franklin County.

High school semifinalists are Lee E. Campbell of Knox County Central, Ashley Lamb-Sinclair of North Oldham County and Tracy Lambert of Lexington Lafayette.

The Kentucky School Boards Association has adopted a resolution that would keep the school start date a local decision. 

Two state lawmakers plan to file a bill in the 2016 General Assembly that would move the start of the school year to  late August. 

Spokesman Brad Hughes says the KSBA believes a one-size-fits-all school calendar won’t work.

"The things that affect a calendar differ from a small district in one part of the state to a large district in another part of the state," Hughes told WKU Public Radio.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, one of the sponsors of the bill, says it would allow a waiver for districts that have a lot of snow days. 

Thayer argues a later start date would save on energy costs since temperatures are typically highest in August and result in more recreational spending.

"There are no high school kids to work at our state parks, marinas, swimming pools,amusement parks and there's no one to attend either because they're all back in school," claims Thayer.

The School Boards Association plans to send the resolution to all state lawmakers ahead of next session.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

Owensboro Community & Technical College and Brescia University are planning to join forces to offer degrees in bluegrass music.

The college is working to create an associate degree program that officials hope to have up and running by spring 2017.

The idea is that students could study two years at the college and then transfer to Brescia to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree in bluegrass.

The schools hope to take advantage of the resources at the International Bluegrass Music Center, a $15.4 million project also slated to open in 2017. The center will be the new home of the International Bluegrass Music Museum and also include a concert hall, restaurant, teaching rooms and a library.


A former swim team member at WKU has filed a federal lawsuit against the school.

The suit was filed by Collin Craig whose allegations of hazing and underage alcohol consumption resulted in a five-year suspension of WKU’s swimming program. 

The suit names WKU, former head swimming coach Bruce Marchionda, and an associate head coach.  Athletic director Todd Stewart is also a defendant along with two associate athletic directors and three former teammates. 

The 21-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court claims Craig suffered verbal, physical, and emotional abuse.  The suit alleges the coach and others knew of the abuse and didn’t take action. 

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.  The university said Thursday it had not yet seen the lawsuit.

Teachers, parents and politicians have long wrestled with the question:

How important is preschool?

A new answer comes in the form of a study — out of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. — that is as clear as it is controversial.

Kentucky Department of Education

The Kentucky Board of Education has voted to hire Stephen Pruitt as the state’s next education commissioner. 

Pruitt is senior vice president of Achieve Inc., an education reform organization.  He also served in various roles with the Georgia Department of Education before joining Achieve, Inc. in 2010. 

In a special meeting Wednesday, Board Chairman Roger Marcum read a statement from Pruitt.

"As a classroom teacher, a state administrator, and a vice president for an education non-profit, my focus has always been on doing what is best for students and that will not change as commissioner," Pruitt stated.

The state Board of Education will meet October 6 to ratify a contract with Pruitt.  He is expected to start his new duties later in the month.

Pruitt replaces Terry Holliday who retired in late August.

Lisa Autry

Some students in the Warren County school system are getting a musical education with help from The Symphony at WKU. 

The strings program at Warren Elementary was presented with 14 violins and violas Tuesday.  The program, funded by donations, allows students to learn how to play an instrument at no cost during the school day. 

Warren County Schools Superintendent Rob Clayton says the strings program gives every student the same opportunity.

"This is a prime example of one of our schools that has a more challenging environment in terms of the students they serve," Clayton told WKU Public Radio.  "They will now have more students involved in the program than any of the other elementary schools, which speaks volumes to our commitment to equity across our district."

The strings program is now in nearly every school in the Warren County system.  The program began in 2003 with 21 students and currently has 750 enrolled.

Lisa Autry

Community colleges across Tennessee are starting the academic year with a higher-than-usual number of students.  That’s because of a first-year program called Tennessee Promise, an initiative that provides new high school graduates two years of tuition-free attendance at community and technical colleges in the state. 

Richard Briley is one of the new faces at Nashville State Community College.  The future business major says that without Tennessee Promise he would have probably enrolled at a four-year school and taken on a lot of debt.

“I’d probably be going to TSU, Tennessee State University, but I would have to take out a loan," explained Briley.

On the first day of classes, Briley and other students got to meet one of the architects of Tennessee Promise, Governor Bill Haslam.

"Just out of curiosity, how many of you are the first person in your family to get to go to college," asked Haslam.

Half of the students in the room raised their hands.

"At this point in time, if I said what will keep you from walking across the stage and getting a two or four-year degree, what are you most worried will stop that from happening," Haslam asked.

The resounding answer was money. 

Tennessee Promise is the first statewide program of its kind in the nation.  About 16,000 students are attending the state’s 13 community colleges, about a ten percent jump over last fall, according to Tennessee Promise Executive Director Mike Krause.

Owensboro Little Free Library is Big Push for Literacy

Sep 16, 2015
Owensboro Public Schools

Literacy is getting a big push at Owensboro Public Schools with a new program called “Little Free Library.” The libraries are so little  they’re contained in a two-foot by two-foot weatherproof box that looks like a birdhouse and hangs on the outside of the school.

The little library holds about 25 books that are there for the taking 24/7. There are no fines for overdue books and no return dates.

Cortney Inklebarger is principal at Cravens Elementary, the first of six schools to have a Little Free Library.

"This is something that’s a little bit more, you know, I put something in and I get to keep it. I don’t necessarily have to bring this back," said Inklebarger. "The goal is to give a book, take a book, but if a student just takes one and they love it so much and they just want to keep it and they don't have something to put back in there, that’s fine with me.”

While students have  been excited about taking and giving books, even coming by over the weekend when school is closed, Inklebarger said the project is one more step in the long-term goal of improving  literacy.

"We promote all the time for our students to read 20, 30 minutes a day. Even if you just go with the 20 minutes a day, if a student reads 20 minutes a day throughout the school year, that’s 3,600 minutes," she said. "Their standardized test scores go up, their vocabulary increases. So the more we can get books in our students’ hands, the more we can promote literacy.

The Cravens Elementary Little Free Library was installed on Sept. 3. The second one will be located at Newton Parrish Elementary on Sept. 21.

Local banks are partnering with six Owensboro schools to support the project.  

Somerset Community College

Somerset Community College has opened a time capsule that was sealed into a wall when the school opened in 1965.  

The vault for the time capsule was in the blueprints for the building, but current school leaders only found out about it when they were interviewing alumni for a 50th anniversary story on the college.

SCC Director of Advancement Cindy Clouse said one thing that stood out about the 50-year-old items was the most common material of the day – paper.

"It kind of does kind of signify the times of 1965. You know, everything was probably a little bit simpler," said Clouse. "Technology wasn't around , so everything then was on paper. So most of the items we received were paper."

The time capsule included newspapers and brochures about the school, as well as the signatures of all the 16 members of the faculty and staff at the time. Those items from 1965 provide a clear comparison that shows the growth of the school. The faculty and staff now numbers more 300. The school opened with 275 students in 1965 and current enrollment is more than 7,000.

Clouse said the school is gathering items to re-load the  time capsule, which will be opened 50 years from now.

“We have a list of all the faculty and staff that we’re going to place inside. A lot of students put in pictures of their clubs. Our student government association wants to burn a CD of the music that people are listening to now,” said Clouse.

Students decided there’s one important item that has to go into the time capsule because it’s so symbolic of our time. That item is a cell phone.

Conway/Overly campaign

Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Jack Conway released his education plan in Louisville Tuesday.

In it, Conway continues his push for more early childhood education programs in the state. His plan aims to expand access to preschoolers in families at 138 percent of the poverty level.

The big question is, though, how the state would pay for that expansion.

Conway said the state can restructure how much of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement money would go toward early childhood education, which currently receives about one-fourth of the funds. State government could vie for more federal support and apply for more grants, too, he said.

However, Conway said eliminating government waste would be the major source of funding.

“Potentially we could maybe double the funding for early childhood education in the first budget, and that is something that I am going to shoot to do,” he said during a news conference at the main public library in downtown Louisville.

Kevin Willis

A new support center at WKU will provide help to the more than 2,000 students with military backgrounds.

The Military Student Support Center at the WKU-Glasgow campus was officially opened at a ceremony Wednesday. Military Student Services Director Tonya Archey says the center will assist students from all over the world who are enrolled in WKU classes.

“We have Coast Guard students in Florida right now, we have active duty Navy in Hawaii right now, and we have students serving all over the world, in Europe and Asia. It’s hard to get admitted when you’re stationed in Korea, for example. It’s hard to navigate the admissions process from overseas. So they call us and we help them through that process.”

Archey says completing college admissions and financial aid forms can be complicated for any student. But she says it can be especially daunting for military students, who face additional paperwork related to admissions and benefits they are entitled to based on their service.