Twice a year, students from across the region are invited to apply for the Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH) Scholars program. The ARH Scholars are awarded a $5,000 academic scholarship to pursue a degree in healthcare. Their stories are unique, but a common thread unites every winner: a desire to make a difference to the people of Appalachia through healthcare. The Spring 2019 class of the ARH Scholars includes 11 talented future healthcare providers.
Kiely Long, a recent graduate from Cumberland Gap High School, can’t say enough nice things about Claiborne County, Tennessee. “We’re a small town, and I get to visit the national parks a lot. They’re really rich in history and there are a lot of things to see.” Even so, she’s looking forward to the next step: in a few short months she’ll be off to East Tennessee State University to begin her journey toward a degree in Rehabilitative Health Sciences.
Why Rehabilitative Health Sciences? Kiely explains “I have a cousin who is a little under my age and she has Down syndrome. I’ve seen her spend time with all sorts of different therapists and I saw the difference that they made to her. I knew that therapy was definitely the field that I was going to pursue.”
“It took me a while to decide on a specialization,” she continues, “but I eventually settled on speech therapy. I had the opportunity to shadow a speech therapist at Caryville Elementary School, and I just loved the atmosphere. It was amazing to see the kids benefiting from therapy. I’ve been going there for a while, so I was able to see the difference that was made in these kids over just one year.”
Kiely credits the Speech-Language Pathologist, Brittany Buckner, with inspiring her to look into speech therapy as a profession. “She has been a huge help as I’ve been deciding. She’s been very patient with me and has answered all of my questions.”
By 2023 Kiely will be graduating from East Tennessee State with her bachelor’s degree, and then it’s on to her master’s degree courses. With years of schooling and loans down the road, she was ecstatic to find the ARH Scholars program on the scholarship page of her school’s website. “When I finally got the email saying that I’d been selected, my whole family pretty much started screaming. We were really excited.”
Even with many years of schooling ahead of her, Kiely has a clear goal in mind: “My entire life I’ve wanted to work with kids somehow. It sounds cliché, but I just want to help people. The kids that I saw during my time at the speech therapy office couldn’t look someone in the eye when having a conversation because they were so insecure about how they spoke. When I talked to them a year later, they were confident and outgoing. So, I’ve seen how something as simple as speech can affect a kid’s life. I want to be able to make that kind of difference. I think that everyone deserves to have a voice so that they can speak up. I want to help them find that voice.”
Full story can be found in The Claiborne Progress, August 7th edition.