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Dr. Devin Stephenson, left, president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College, met with former President Bill Clinton during a stop at Prestonsburg Elementary School on Thursday, May 12. Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC), met with former President Bill Clinton on Thursday, May 12 at Prestonsburg Elementary School.

Dr. Stephenson and Clinton discussed the challenges and opportunities facing eastern Kentucky. The meeting was at the request of Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Grimes, who attended the event in Prestonsburg, was the keynote speaker for BSCTCs commencement ceremony on May 6. She witnessed firsthand the transformation of students like Danny Ratliff, a laid off coal miner who earned his Associate in Science degree and has been accepted to the Appalachian College of Pharmacy.

I wanted the president to know that while we face challenges, we are embarking on some exciting opportunities, said Dr. Stephenson. Coal, both economically and culturally, is important to the region, but equally as important is developing diversity in our job market so that anyone who wishes to stay here has the opportunity work and make a living wage.

Dr. Stephenson, the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) liaison for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), assured Clinton that community and technical colleges in eastern Kentucky are training a world-class workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

I explained to him that the same work ethic that powered America for decades underground and on top of mountains can transfer to new, innovative and more sustainable careers, he continued. President Clinton was very receptive to the work of Big Sandy and our role in community, workforce and economic development.