PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - The 33rd Annual WYMT - Food City Mountain Basketball Classic Scholarship presentation kicked off Monday, connecting 114 students in Eastern Kentucky with scholarships.
The event, presented by local Kentucky Farm Bureau Agents and sponsored by Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), and sponsored by Appalachian Wireless, brought students, their families and scholarship sponsors together at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg for a celebration lunch and awards ceremony.
Mountain Classic committee members say they are always excited to plan the event, adding that this year provided the second largest number of scholarships in 33 years.
"This tournament's always meant a lot to me. And now, being on the board and being able to help children in all three regions just makes it really worthwhile," said committee member Ancie Casey.
He said the opportunity to help the students succeed is what the community effort is all about.
"We like to bring the kids in, treat ‘em very special, feed ‘em a meal. And we want this to be kind of like a graduation atmosphere,” added committee chairman Archie Everege.
That celebratory atmosphere was well-received by the scholarship honorees.
"It's a cool thing that they do for the kids of Eastern Kentucky. Because they don't have much of a chance anyway, so they try to help us out the best they can," said Harlan County High School scholarship recipient Stephen Daniel.
George Smith, Jackson County High School scholarship recipient, agreed. He said the $1,000 scholarship, which many colleges have agreed to match for recipients, will help offset expenses for him.
"Every dollar counts. I'm not from a very advantaged household. So, really, just any little bit that I can muster helps, honestly," Smith said.
That matching agreement is not the only advantage of the scholarship. During Monday's ceremony, the Appalachian School of Law (ASL) announced a new perk for past recipients of the scholarship.
"All of you who have been putting your lives and hearts and money into Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia, I am so incredibly grateful for that," ASL Dean Elizabeth McClanahan announced during the ceremony.
McClanahan said generosity similar to that of the Mountain Classic sponsors has also helped ASL create scholarships.
"Because I've been so impressed with this program, we have reserved two full scholarships to Appalachian School of Law for previous recipients of this Mountain Classic Scholarship," she added.
Those full-ride scholarships, equal to $35,000 per year, are set aside for two students planning to enter law school in 2020.
Those involved in the event say the entire day revolved around students and the potential that they carry with them. That was cemented during keynote speaker Philip Haywood's speech about purpose, passion and potential.
Haywood, a seven-time state champion football coach at Belfry High School, also serves as the school's guidance counselor. He congratulated the students on their achievements, telling them the true journey begins as they embark on the next years of their undergraduate journey.
"Find you something that you're passionate about as well," Haywood said. "Find you something that gives that meaning to you in your life. Something that you can basically get lost in. Where you're giving to something that's a little bigger than you. And you'll know when you find it. And keep searching until you do."
Two more scholarships will be awarded this week during the Mountain Basketball Classic.