Boy Scouts from across the area recently became the first in Kentucky to successfully complete requirements for the new Mining In Society merit badge. They did so with support provided by Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and the Kentucky Coal Academy. The Scouts, a total of 18 from Troop 149 in Harlan and Troop 572 of London, were participating in the Boy Scouts of America Mountain Laurel District’s Fall Camporee held Oct. 10-11. Gary L. Steenbergen, a professor at Southeast and a veteran scout leader and the advancement chairman for the district, helped organize the camporee and arranged for the Scouts to camp at Kingdom Come State Park at Cumberland where they enjoyed a night of fellowship and good food before beginning the next day determined to earn the newly appointed merit badge devoted to mining. The Mining In Society badge, according to Steenbergen, was made available to Scouts last winter. Through the devices of SKCTC and the Portal 31 Coal Mine Tour at Lynch and the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Benham, tourists sites staffed and maintained by college personnel, the young men were able to learn about the coal mining industry and its methods while meeting the demanding requirements necessary in earning the merit badge. Scouts received an all-inclusive tour of the museum led by Jerry Asher where they learned about the history of coal mining in Harlan County, specifically the Tri-City area of Cumberland, Benham and Lynch, home to some of the richest coal deposits in the World. Following the tour, Scouts then rode a train deep into Black Mountain on an exhilarating 40-minute trek that featured several stops along the way as state-of-the art animatronic figures sprang to life recounting the evolution of mining at Lynch, once the largest coal town in the nation. “With the new badge being offered, we thought that by utilizing the Portal 31 and Kentucky Coal Mining Museum resources it made perfect sense to have the camporee in Harlan County,” suggested Steenbergen, who has been involved with scouting for over 30years.“The kids and the 10 leaders enjoyed the experience and came away with a much better knowledge of coal mining and the impact the industry has made to the area and the state.” While the Scouts used the resources of the Southeast-operated sites to their advantage, they quickly set out to learn much about the coal industry, while receiving expert instruction offered by Gary Whisman, the executive director for the Kentucky Coal Academy. Whisman, who, as its chief for two years, heads the KCA which operates sites devoted to training and education. Academy locations are on the SKCTC Cumberland campus, at Hazard Community and Technical College, at Big Sandy Community and Technical College and Madisonville Community and Technical College. Whisman taught a large segment of the merit badge curriculum that features eight components. He specialized in the safety aspect of mining while the Scouts sat on benches inside the nearly 100-year old Lamp House at the Portal 31 site. “The day turned out to be successful, and I was very impressed with the Scouts,” noted Whisman. “They were eager to learn about the coal mining industry, and they came away from their time here being more aware of the industry and its importance and its legacy.” Also involved in the teaching of the Mining In Society merit badge were David Howard of Howard & Howard Engineering & Geology of Harlan who presented several components of the curriculum along with Professor Steenbergen.
Angela Simpson, a long-time Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College employee, has been nameda vicepresident andthe chieffinancialofficerfor the institution. A Cumberland native and SKCTC alumnus, she wasrecently selected forthe job and brings to the position over 30 years of service to the college. In herjob,she is entrusted with managing a budget in excess of $20-million for Southeast whichoperates five, full-service campuses in Harlan, Bell and Letcher counties. SKCTC has an enrollment ofapproximately 4,000 students. “I am pleased to have been chosen for the job,” Simpson said, “I have devoted a large partof my working life to Southeast;I am happy to be able to continue with my service as the college continues to grow andtoserve studentsfromall across theregion.” Dr. Lynn Moore, president of the college, expressed confidence that Simpson would do a “quality” job. “We are delighted to have Angela as our financial leader. I knowshe will be successful — helping the institution prosper in the many years to come,” she said. In her role as chief financial officer, Simpson is responsible for the yearly budget, accounting, auxiliary services,payroll, purchasing and student accountsfor the college. Additionally, thechiefbusinessaffairsofficer is a major participant, along with the president and other chiefs of the college, in strategic planning andindecision and information processesof the college. “Excited is the word as I begin thejob,and I look forward to working with our students, faculty and staff as we all work with onegoal in mind: to make Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College an even greater institution than it has already become during itsremarkable 54years of service,”Simpsonsaid. SKCTC has been singled out over the past few years, havingtwicebeen named one of the nation’s toptencommunity colleges as reported by the prestigious Aspen Institute. The daughter of Joe and Frances Serrenho, she graduated from Cumberland High School in 1979 and enrolled at SKCTC where she earned an associate’s degree before receiving a BA in business administration from Lincoln Memorial University. Her first job at Southeast was as the cashier in the Business Affairs Office. “I have been on hand to see the college grow from 450 students to nearly 4,000 today. We had one campus when I began, today we have five. I am proud of the growth and the success of Southeast. I am thankful to be a member of the team,” she said. She has been married to David Simpson for 23 years. They are the parents of Michaela, who is a senior at J. Frank White Academy. In her idle time Angela enjoys travelling, reading and is active in her church, Christ the King in Tazewell, Tenn.