By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
Congressman Hal Rogers spoke to Whitley UNITE campers about the importance of staying drug free at the University of the Cumberlands Friday morning. It was the first time in the six-year history of Camp UNITE that the congressman has been able to come speak with the children, according to UNITE Director Karen Kelly.
“He’s usually out fighting the good fight in Washington and trying to help eastern Kentucky,” said Kelly, who has worked with the congressman on the UNITE programs for the past 17 years.
“Working with youth is just one of the many aspects of UNITE, but possibly the most important one because you all are making choices every day,” Rogers said.
Over 240 students who will be entering the seventh, eighth or ninth grade participated in Camp UNITE this year, learning valuable skills, but most of all, learning the importance of choices and staying drug free. Campers from 26 southern and eastern Kentucky counties were present. Over the past six years, approximately 1,100 children have come to the University of the Cumberlands to Camp UNITE, according to Rogers.
“I want you all to get used to being on a college campus; I want everyone here to go to college,” Rogers encouraged the children gathered to listen to him speak. He talked of the importance of life decisions and “picking” the right friends.
“These choices are yours; what you do with your life is your choice to make and the older you get, the more you will realize how important it is who you spend your time with and how you spend that time,” Rogers said. He urged the campers to return home and share the lessons they learned while at camp with their friends.
After speaking, Rogers and University of the Cumberlands Dr. Michael Colegrove received medals from Kelly and the campers.
“This is to thank you both for being heroes and champions and for everything that you do,” Kelly said.
When it was opened up for the campers to ask the congressman questions, one young man asked Rogers what his motivation was.
“My motivation is to try to help the people in eastern Kentucky. We’ve got a drug problem here, but we’re addressing it. Stay clean, stay away from the wrong people and stay the great person that you are, because if you weren’t great, you wouldn’t be here,” Rogers said.