As we officially embark on the holiday season, it is a time of thanksgiving, cheer and reflection. While we look forward to family gatherings, cherished time with friends and great food, I always like to take a moment to reflect on those things for which I am thankful.

Since arriving at Big Sandy Community and Technical College in June, my wife, Judy, and I have been embraced by the communities across Eastern Kentucky. Your hospitality, support and passion for higher education drive us each day.

Im thankful to work for an institution that is student centered and results and community driven. Together, we have laid the foundation of transformation in Eastern Kentucky. Our Pikeville campus expansion, that will more than double our existing capacity and include a 300-space parking garage, is moving forward. Thanks to $3.2 million in grants from the Economic Development Agency, Appalachian Region Commission and a Community Development Block Grant, we will construct the states first Broadband Technology Center.

This year, we have experienced an enrollment increase and other firsts for our state and region, like an agreement with the American Dental Association to form the states first Community Dental Hygiene Coordinators program.

None of this would be possible without the passion of our college employees. They exhibit a profound professionalism to higher education and an unwavering commitment to student success. At the end of the day, we work collectively to change our region one opportunity, one student at a time.

Through innovation and collaboration with organizations such as Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), One East Kentucky, the Southeast Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Floyd County Chamber of Commerce and Paintsville/Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, we are working together to position our region for economic growth now and for generations to come.

So, as we embark on this season of giving, love and reflection, I would encourage you to be active, pay it forward and do your part in changing our region. No act is too big or too small as long as it is done with an attitude of gratitude for your region, your neighbor or even a stranger.

I am thankful for my family, both my biological family and the family that has turned Eastern Kentucky into our home. I am thankful for our students and their courage to persevere. Because of this determination, many of them become the first in their family to earn a college degree or credential. I am thankful for our faculty and staff who go above and beyond each day to position our students for success. I am thankful that they display a passion for the possible in everything they do.

I am thankful to live in a region that has blurred county lines and embraced a regional approach to community and economic development. I am thankful for leaders who communicate and collaborate for the common good of all.

Lastly, I am thankful for you, our stakeholders and supporters. Without you the dream of a college education would not be a reality. Your support is appreciated and needed as we continue to work to change our region one student, one opportunity at a time.

Dr. Devin Stephenson is president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College