Nonprofit helps former coal miner earn degree

Published: May. 5, 2017 at 11:57 PM EDT
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One former coal miner is thanking a nonprofit after he received a college degree on Friday.

Brandon Pierson worked in the coal mines for five years, until he was laid off in 2015.

He then received help from the Center for Rural Development's Displaced Coal Miner Training Program.

The program provides assistance to former coal miners or coal employees who reside in 13 Kentucky counties. Those counties are Bell, Clay, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, Harlan, McCreary, Owsley, Perry, Pulaski, Rockcastle and Whitley.

Applicants must have at least one year of employment in the coal mine industry within the last five years to qualify for the program.

On Friday, Pierson graduated with an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice.

He said without the Displaced Coal Miner Training Program, he's not sure the achievement would have been possible.

"I feel really accomplished," said Pierson. "I'm the first person in my family to go to college or finish. And to be able to have a job, in something other than the mining field, which is great and I can retire from, means a lot."

Pierson said he graduated debt free.

He encourages other former coal miners to look into the program.

Pierson also said he now hopes to attend the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Academy, which has been a dream of his for a long time.

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