Growing into the dream job

Steven Gullett 1

Meet Mountain’s plant manager Steven Gullett
By Noble Sprayberry

Steven Gullett wondered how far from home a career might take him. He grew up in West Liberty and attended Morgan County High School.

“I always thought it would be nice to stay home, but I didn’t know if it would be possible,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate.”

In February, he was named Mountain’s plant manager, stepping in for Rick Pelfrey, who retired. The job oversees 46 employees and many other responsibilities, including crews, lines, buildings and technology.

“In the past, we’ve had some real good leadership from our board, GM and our plant managers,” he says. “They’ve made good decisions over the years, and I hope to do the same.”
Gullett, 41, can rely on experience to guide his choices.

Seizing an opportunity
After graduating from high school, he began commuting 30 miles north to attend Morehead State University. “When I went to college, I thought that I would be a schoolteacher,” he says. “But when I started working summers at the co-op, they couldn’t get rid of me.”

His first tools were a mower and string trimmer. He kept grass clear at remote sites. “I got to see our entire service area, learning all the parts and the way it works,” Gullett says.

And he kept working. Eventually, he was offered a full-time job, but he would first need to complete a college degree. “I was able to get a degree in university studies, and then I started work (in 1998),” he says.

Over the years, Gullett worked in the Mountain departments responsible for service to homes, as well as businesses.

“My morals have stayed the same, and I’ve grown up,” he says. The company’s culture helped him develop a work ethic and an understanding that a job needs to be done well. “The way we work, we don’t have someone standing over us telling us how it’s done,” he says. “You have some control.”

Now, his days begin around 7 a.m., lasting late into the afternoon. “Being available is the most important aspect of the job,” he says. “When someone calls, I need to answer.”

Keeping pace with 
During the years he grew into the job with Mountain, technology also developed at a blistering pace. “When I started, it was pretty much just dial-up Internet service, and it was foreign to everyone,” he says.

Mountain has evolved to meet the challenges of new technology and customer demand, offering services such as IPTV, which transmits a high-quality television signal through an Ethernet connection.

“Technology is always changing, and we have to change with it,” Gullett says. “And the only thing you can predict is that it’s going to keep changing. But, I think we have the staff to keep up.”


Creating the ‘ski lodge’


How creativity and Lowe’s restored a high school library

By Noble Sprayberry

Sascha Creech, a library media specialist for Wolfe County High School, led the restoration of the library.

Sascha Creech, a library media specialist for Wolfe County High School, led the restoration of the library.

After storms ripped across the county on a March night in 2012, Sascha Creech and her family raced to the building attended by generations of students.

“Our school had been prone to roof leaks in the past — our building had a flat roof,” says Creech, the library media specialist for Wolfe County High School. “When we walked in after the storm, we could hear water pouring like someone had turned on a huge faucet.”

In the library, a partial roof collapse and rain destroyed books, computers, shelves and carpet. “We tried to save what we could, but water was still pouring in from the outside,” she says.

The damage was a blow for the school’s 350 students. “Unfortunately, books don’t take to water very well,” she says. “We lost about 60 percent of our collection.”

A rebuilding partner: The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education
Soon, though, work started to create a new library. The school’s then-curriculum coordinator, Jennifer Carroll, applied for a grant from Lowe’s.

The company awarded the school a total of $93,683. “The first thing I did was to have a good cry, because I couldn’t believe we had this money,” Creech says.

The grant was made through the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. “The Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program delivers on the commitment of Lowe’s to improve the educational environment for students across the country,” says Maureen Ausura, foundation chairwoman. “We’re honored to work with Wolfe County High School to support the needs of our local students, teachers and families.”

New flooring, faux stone walls and upgraded furniture create a welcoming environment for students.

New flooring, faux stone walls and upgraded furniture create a welcoming environment for students.

Creating the “Ski Lodge”
With finances secured, Creech started the planning necessary to rebuild. She hoped to create a place students would find far more welcoming than the aging library.

“I asked myself what I could do to make this a place students would want to come,” she says. “I didn’t want them to remember the picture of this being a horrible, foul place. Many of them had seen the destruction.”

The 15-year-old carpet, destroyed by water during the storm, was removed, leaving bare concrete.

“We wanted the look of wood, but in a library, the sound of wood is not a good thing,” Creech says. “You want it to be quiet. So, we went with a commercial-grade vinyl tile like they use in the malls. It’s softer when you walk on it, but it looks like wood.”

Not only does the floor absorb sound, but it is also water-resistant and has a lifetime warranty. “It was a no-brainer,” she says.

As the design evolved, she focused on creating a functional, welcoming atmosphere in a windowless library.

“I just kept looking at the concrete walls in here. At first, I thought paint,” she says. “But, I wanted a look that wasn’t like anything else in the building.”

She worked with Lowe’s employees to settle on manufactured stone. “It’s like sheets with runners,” she says. “You screw it into the walls like you would vinyl siding. It looks like stacked stone, but without the mortar.”

With stone walls determined, the rest of the design took shape. “I decided to go with a lodge feel, so it would be warm and inviting in the winter and the summer,” she says.
Students have embraced the redesign, even providing their own spin on the resource. “Some of the student now call it the ‘ski lodge,’ and it does have that sort of feel,” Creech says.

New books and tools

Donations from book publishers replaced much of the library’s damaged collection.

Donations from book publishers replaced much of the library’s damaged collection.

While the library was refreshed, there were some hard losses. While some books were spared, many were not. “We probably lost some old classic books that you can’t replace now. Those books are reprinted and new, but there’s just something valuable about an old book,” Creech says. “It’s how it looks and feels.”

Insurance, however, provided about $15,000 to restock the shelves. Two other businesses also helped.

Creech says Follett books donated more than 1,000 books, and the Garrett Book Company provided about 200 books. “These were all brand-new, high school-level books,” she says. “We were able to exceed the previous collection by a bit.”

Also, a grant through the Appalachian Renaissance Initiative allowed the school to replace electronics, including 22 iPads. Additionally, an accompanying cart for the digital tablets serves as a wireless Internet hub.

The library was not the only part of the school that benefited from the support of Lowe’s. Creech says the company also provided about $1,000 for improvements elsewhere in the school building.
“We had some of the stone left over, so we also spruced up the cafeteria,” she says. Paint, wood trim and other touches brightened the space.

“It wasn’t damaged by the storm, but before it wasn’t a very inviting place,” she says.

Similarly, Creech says she has seen a difference in how students use the library. “I’m not sure if it’s because of how it looks, or because it was closed for a year, but traffic is definitely heavier,” she says.

A nation divided: 150 years later

Relive history on a tour of these prominent Civil War battlefields

By Robert Thatcher

This year, the country will conclude its 150th anniversary remembrance of the Civil War. But don’t worry if you missed the reenactments and fanfare over the past four years. Take this trip on US Highway 41 from Kentucky through Middle Tennessee to find plenty of history while tracing pivotal battles in America’s most costly war.

Stop #1 – Fort Donelson National Battlefield
Where Ulysses Grant became a household name

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, on the banks of the Cumberland River just south of the Kentucky border, is a natural starting point for a drive through Middle Tennessee. It’s also a good beginning militarily.

Dover Hotel

Dover Hotel

“Almost everything that happened in the state is a sequel to what happened here,” says Doug Richardson, Fort Donelson’s chief of interpretation.

Rivers were arteries of commerce for the South, and the Confederates built Fort Donelson to protect the Cumberland and upstream cities like Clarksville and Nashville

But on Feb. 12, 1862, a little-known Union brigadier general named Ulysses S. Grant set his sights on Fort Donelson. He was confident of victory after his gunboats easily took nearby Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

Donelson was not so easy. Well-positioned Confederate guns brought victory, setting up a successful “break out” through Union lines. But the victory was short-lived, as the Confederates unwittingly helped Grant by pulling troops back to their original positions. Grant retook the lost ground, and the 12,000-man garrison surrendered unconditionally. The battle made Grant a star and was a catastrophe for the South.

Touring Fort Donelson

The park preserves more than 20 percent of the original battlefield, with several square miles of earthwork fortifications. Don’t miss these highlights:

  • Stand at the gun batteries where Confederate gunners battered Grant’s gunboats.
  • Visit the Dover Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant demanded “unconditional surrender” from his old West Point friend, Confederate Simon Buckner.
  • Pause at Fort Donelson National Cemetery for a reminder of the sacrifices that Americans have made from the Civil War to the present day.
  • While absorbing the history, you may also encounter two notable park residents. “We’ve got two resident bald eagles who live down at the river,” Richardson says. “Our eagles are about as famous as our generals.”

Stop #2 – Stones River National Battlefield
The Fight for the Confederate Heartland

We could follow General Grant to the Mississippi line and Shiloh, where his Army of the Tennessee headed after Donelson, but there’s good reason to drive to Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro.

“When Fort Donelson falls, the Confederates have to give up Nashville,” explains Park Ranger Jim Lewis. “And Nashville becomes the base for the Union Army to launch the campaigns which will lead to Stones River, Chickamauga and Chattanooga.”

For many, Stones River is a quiet retreat from bustling Murfreesboro. But the 6,100 gravestones across from the visitor center are a sober reminder of what took place there. Of the 81,000 who fought here, 23,000 were killed, wounded or went missing in action — the highest percentage of casualties of any Civil War battle.

Early success, then retreat

Cemetery at Stones River

Cemetery at Stones River

On New Year’s Eve 1862, the Southern army under Braxton Bragg attacked first, catching William Rosecrans’ Union troops at breakfast and driving them north. Then on Jan. 2, the Confederates launched another attack along the east bank of the Stones River to drive Union troops off of a high hill.

“In the process of pursuing, those Confederates will come under the fire of 57 Union cannons along the other side of the river and will lose about 1,800 men in 45 minutes,” Lewis says. “That’s a pretty bloody exclamation point.”

The Confederates then retreated.

Touring Stones River

Stones River offers a 12-stop auto tour, including these sights:

  • Walk around The Slaughter Pen, a rock outcropping where Union troops made a stubborn stand.
  • Pay respect at the Hazen Brigade Monument, one of the oldest war monuments in the country.
  • Be awed by Fort Rosecrans, the largest earthworks fortification in North America.

Stop #3 – Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park
The Death Knell of the Confederacy

We’ve followed the Union push to Nashville and Murfreesboro. The next stop is Chattanooga. Actually, we’ll go south of the city to Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Re-enactments, like this one near Chickamauga, Ga., can bring history to life, but battlefields throughout the Southeast are interesting places to visit anytime.

Driving to the park, you’ll cross the mountains that convinced General Rosecrans not to advance directly on Chattanooga. He moved southwest of the city to block supply lines, forcing Confederate troops into Georgia as well. But Chattanooga was the Union goal.

“Chattanooga is a doorway through the southern barrier of the Appalachians,” says Park Historian Jim Ogden.

Driving through the dense woods of the 5,300-acre park, you can see why confusion reigned in the war’s second-bloodiest battle. About 35,000 men were killed, wounded, missing or captured in fighting from Sept. 19-20, 1863. Strategic mistakes led to a Union retreat. The Union troops retreated to Chattanooga, where they withstood a two-month siege before ultimately breaking through in the battle of Chattanooga.

“This allowed the Union drive across Georgia in 1864, from Chattanooga to Atlanta and from Atlanta to Savannah,” Ogden notes.

Touring Chickamauga

Start at the visitor center on Lafayette Road. After touring the park, drive 17 miles to Lookout Mountain Battlefield for views from 1,500 feet above Chattanooga. Other key sites:

  • Stand on Snodgrass Hill where George Thomas became “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
  • Get a general’s view from Orchard Knob, Grant’s command post, and the Bragg Reservation, Confederate headquarters on Missionary Ridge.
  • Watch the conflict electronically at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum on Lookout Mountain.

Chattanooga was a major blow for the Confederacy. But there’s much more to see on the campaign South – Tunnel Hill, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain all the way to Savannah and then into South Carolina. The war continued on and your trip can too. Visit for more sites from the War Between the States.

Tech-Savvy Traveler: Charting your course

Point Park Cannon

Point Park Cannon

Robert E. Lee is regarded by many as the most clever battle tactician of the Civil War. Imagine what he could have done with a GPS! Nowadays, it’s easy to come up with a battle plan and map out the route for you and your troops on your next vacation. Apps like Google Earth provide directions for tourists with aerial or street views of those historic sites from Gettysburg to Charleston. For those battling interstate traffic, Road Ninja is an app that will help you find fuel, food and shelter for the evening, keeping your small army on the move.

Perfectly Imperfect

For the everyday home

A Q&A with Shaunna West, a blogger from Troy, Alabama, who writes about everything from painting furniture to decorating to homeschooling. 

Shaunna West

Shaunna West

What will readers find at your blog?
Shaunna West: Perfectly Imperfect is a window into our lives. You’ll find DIY projects, furniture makeovers, before-and-after room makeovers, shop talk, topics on running a creative business and even a few family posts.

Why did you become a blogger, and how has blogging changed your life?
SW: I have been writing since I was a little girl, and in 2009, I needed to write. I began sharing my furniture-painting techniques and the process of our attic renovation, and soon, the blog became a business and a place for people to seek inspiration for their everyday homes. The community and readers at Perfectly Imperfect took me completely by surprise. There is a world of people interested in the same things you are, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even develop relationships with these incredible people. The Internet can be used for such good, and its reach is incredible. I’m grateful for PI, for my readers and for their willingness to listen to what I have to say.

What are some big trends in decorating this spring and summer?
SW: Any time you gear into spring and summer, people are going to be looking to brighten and lighten their homes. There are lots of beautiful metallics out there and lots of blues and golds and greens as far as colors. Anything you can do to try and make your home feel fresh and clean. Spring is the time when we all begin to organize and begin to purge and pare down and only have what’s necessary in the home. Homes should be functional and efficient as well as beautiful.

Check out her blog:

Shaunna’s tips for changing your home on a budget

living roomKeep in mind that your home is your sanctuary away from the busyness of the world. Take the time to create spaces you enjoy and that create rest for you and your family.

If you’re feeling like your home has become dark and dreary, give the walls a fresh coat of paint in lighter neutrals. It will instantly brighten your space. My favorites are Benjamin Moore White Diamond, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice and Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray.

Save and invest in key pieces like your sofa and armchairs, and shop flea markets and antique malls for small end tables and dressers. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll save when you allow time for your space to come together.
Paint everything in sight. Seriously, paint is the cheapest and fastest way to transform your home. Have a coffee table you love, but hate how beaten up it is? Paint it, and you will have a new piece of furniture in a few hours.

Whatever your interest, there is likely an online community of people who share that interest with you. Our “Featured Blogger” series introduces you to people who write websites about a variety of topics. In the May/June issue, we’ll focus on marriage and relationships.

Other home/DIY blogs you might like:
Layla shares her love of cottage style with readers.
Tracey describes herself striving to create beauty in her heart and in her home.
KariAnne shares her transition from the big city to a slower-paced, happier life.


Can you hear the music?

You’re only a click away from your favorite tunes

By Cecil H. Yancy Jr.

The Rolling Stones asked, “Can you hear the music?” And the answer is, yes! You can easily listen on your computer or mobile device anytime you like.
Digital music services offer you two ways to listen to old favorites or explore new artists.

A download captures the music on your computer for use in the future — think of being able to burn a CD or play the music by clicking on a file from your computer. On the other hand, music streaming is like having a steady flow of music coming into your computer. Just click and create stations from artists you choose.

While downloads have their advantages, streaming appears to be the wave of the future. By this year, according to a Pew Research Institute study, as many as 80 percent of Americans will listen to audio on digital devices. While 51 percent of all adults say they listen to music on these devices, age makes a big difference in music habits, according to the study. More than 60 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen Xers listen to music online compared with 48 percent of younger Boomers. Older Americans tend to prefer the traditional AM/FM radio format. But streaming music is getting so easy, music lovers of all ages can jump on board.

Open the box to music streaming

Woman Listening To Music On Her TabletPandora opened the box with one of the first online Internet radio services. With Pandora, you can listen free for 40 hours per month, with advertisements. Pay $36 a year and get the music without commercials. It’s easy to use. Say you like Johnny Cash: Type in his name and a “radio station” of his songs and those of similar audiences will begin playing. The best part is Pandora gives you background information about the artist as the music is playing. You can even skip a certain number of songs you don’t like.

New releases and exclusives

Spotify is another big player in the music-streaming arena. It has a 20-million-plus song catalog from the major record labels, which can be organized into playlists that allow users to stream their own lists or lists from friends or celebrities. The basic features are free after downloading the application, or the premium version is $9.99 per month. Music on Spotify can be imported from iTunes and synced with a mobile device so you can make your favorite songs available anywhere you go!

Create your own iTunes station

In addition to 25 DJ-curated and genre-based stations, iTunes Radio allows you to create personalized radio stations or follow “guest DJ” stations from famous artists. You can pause, skip and playback with iTunes Radio and even buy the tune you’re currently listening to. If you have an iTunes Match Account for $25 per year, it’s ad-free. iTunes Radio is a great merge between a download provider and a streaming service.

A couple of clicks and no cost

Silver Ear Bud HeadphonesIf you’re leaning toward listening to music online, but a bit overwhelmed by the choices, check out sites that only require a couple of clicks to get started and are designed to be more like your radio.

Sites like and offer an easy way to listen to your favorite tunes, with either stations or DJs that pick the tunes. On the Bluegrass site, DJs host shows. On the Boomer Radio site, users can pick from moods like acoustic café, sweet soul music and classic mix.

Real men do eat quiche

By Anne P. Braly

Anne P. Braly

Food Editor Anne P. Braly is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn. Prior to pursuing a freelance career, she spent 21 years as food editor and feature writer at a regional newspaper.

Bea Salley loves to cook. So much so, in fact, that she says she’d like to own a restaurant in her hometown of Walterboro, South Carolina. But until her ship comes in, she’ll stick to catering for area residents in her spare time. Her forte? Quiche.

“I make potato pies, apple pies, coconut pies and cakes, but quiche is my specialty,” she says. “It’s a good, year-round dish, but particularly in the spring.”

Salley’s mother died when she was 13 years old. So with just her father and no siblings, she would never have learned the intricacies of cooking had women in her community — she grew up in Oakman Branch right outside Walterboro — not intervened, taking her under their wing to teach her and stirring her interest in what would become her passion.

But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that she realized she wanted to make a difference by catering to her community with more healthful food choices.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

A healthy choice — With so many ways to prepare quiche, it can be a healthy choice for any season. Be a Salley likes to use ingredients such as fish and vegetables, while keeping the sodium low.

“No one in my household — my husband, Fred, our five kids and 10 grandchildren — ever had any problems with high blood pressure or diabetes, and I know what you cook with makes a difference,” she says.

So almost all of her recipes, particularly her quiches, have healthy ingredients, such as fish and vegetables, and not a lot of sodium. And everyone loves them, she adds.

But there’s a saying that’s become quite familiar: “Real men don’t eat quiche.”
Not so, Salley says.

“There are a lot of men who love my quiche. They say it’s filling, so they don’t have to eat as much.”

David Walton of Summerville is one example. He’s been eating and enjoying Salley’s quiches for at least a dozen years. “‘Real men don’t eat quiche’ simply isn’t true when you have quiche as good as Bea’s!” he says.

And it’s this time of year that Salley’s kitchen heats up with quiches in her oven. People like to be outside in the warm weather and not inside cooking, so Salley does it for them.

“Quiche is a quick, full meal for friends and family,” she says. Serve a slice of quiche with a salad and a basket of bread, and you have a complete, healthy dinner. Leftovers are even better — if there are any to be had.

Whether you’re baking a brunch-friendly bacon-and-egg-filled treat for Easter or an elegant vegetarian dinner served with a healthy lettuce or fruit salad, quiche is extremely easy to adapt in a number of delicious ways. The recipes that follow are some of Salley’s favorites.

Veggie Quiche

1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter
Quiche_11611/2 onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 10-ounce bag spinach
1 12-ounce container fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice), plus more for
1/2 cup sour cream
1 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)

Heat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat; add onions and bell pepper; let simmer. Add spinach, mushrooms, zucchini and squash; cover and saute until softened. Stir in salt and pepper; let cool, then pour in bowl and add eggs, flour and cheese, blending mixture together. Last, add sour cream, blending well. Pour into crust, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake for 40 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Salmon and Mushroom Quiche

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 16-ounce container fresh
 mushrooms, sliced
1 large can salmon
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 9-inch pie crust
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400°F. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add onions and let simmer for 3 minutes until onions are soft. Add mushrooms, stirring until soft, then add salmon. Blend mixture together, let cool, then add Swiss cheese, eggs, flour, sour cream, salt and pepper. Blend all together, then pour into crust, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until quiche is set around the edges and still slightly loose in the center. Remove from oven and let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Note: This quiche is also good served “crustless.” Bake in pie pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray using no pie crust. Follow directions as written.

Bea’s Pie Crust

This is the quickest and simplest pastry crust ever, and it tastes great.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening (preferably Crisco)
5 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whisk together flour and salt in medium bowl. Add shortening and butter, tossing with fingers until pieces are well-coated with the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the shortening and butter into the dry ingredients. Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the ice water and the lemon juice; mix just until the dough comes together, adding the last tablespoon of water if the dough is too dry. Do not overwork the dough or it will become too tough. Pat the dough into a flat disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling out.

Tips to make the perfect quiche

Quiche is a simple idea for brunch or dinner, but getting it right can be difficult. Here are a few key steps to ensure that your quiche will be creamy and your crust will be flaky.

  • The crust: The first step to a good quiche is having a great pastry shell. It will come out better if you parbake (partially bake) it for about 10 minutes so that it’s dry and crisp before adding your filling.
  • Seal it: To avoid a soggy pastry, brush the bottom of the crust with an egg wash (a beaten egg white) right after parbaking it. The warmth of the crust when you remove it from the oven is all you need to “cook” the egg white and seal the shell to help keep it crispy.
  • Say “no” to low-fat: There’s nothing worse than wimpy flavor when you bite into a quiche, so make sure to avoid using low-fat or nonfat ingredients. Their high water content prevents the quiche from setting properly, resulting in a watery finish.
  • Protect the edges: Once in the oven, keep an eye on the shell, and if the edges of the pastry start browning too quickly, wrap them in a little aluminum foil.
  • Loose is a good rule of thumb: Take the quiche out of the oven when the center is still slightly wobbly. This will ensure that it doesn’t over-cook and will still have its creamy custard texture when you cut into it.

Space: The next frontier for students at MSU

By Brian Lazenby

Will Barrette, a senior in MSU’s space program, displays a satellite he built and launched last year in the Black Rock Desert.

Will Barrette, a senior in MSU’s space program, displays a satellite he built and launched last year in the Black Rock Desert.

Will Barrette launched a satellite in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, last year that outperformed technology giants such as Google and Intel.

The launch of Barrette’s “CanSat,” a satellite roughly the size of a soft drink can, was part of an annual competition to successfully design and launch a satellite from a rocket at about 10,000 feet. Barrette’s plan was to launch his satellite and broadcast Wi-Fi from that altitude, which would then transmit a live video signal from a camera in the satellite to the ground.

He says it was about 95 percent successful.

“I didn’t have much faith in it,” says Barrette, 19, of the satellite he built for less than $200. “I was prepared for it to fail, but it exceeded expectations.”

The only fault in the test was that the satellite shook violently during the launch, which caused the camera to reboot. Barrette didn’t get all the camera footage he had hoped for, but the attempt to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal at 10,000 feet was a success.

Google and Intel also launched satellites attempting the same thing, but their tests were not as successful as Barrette’s. Both companies have since contacted the senior at Morehead State University, and now Intel wants him to use their Edison 3 processor in his next launch.

Barrette, who attended Menifee County High School and the elite Gatton Academy, declined to say whether he will take them up on their offer, but he is now working on a new “pocket cube” satellite project that he says he can’t talk about yet.

Bluegrass rocket science

When you think about NASA, outer space and satellites, you probably think of Houston, Texas, or Cape Canaveral, Florida. But the space science program at MSU is giving students like Barrette hands-on experience with meaningful astrophysics research.

The Space Science Center at MSU is a division of the Department of Earth and Space Science in the College of Science and Technology. It houses MSU’s space science program of distinction and has become an important center for research in micro- and nano-satellite technologies, which involves the study of small, inexpensive but highly capable satellites that are now being used by NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense, aerospace companies and universities around the globe.

Dr. Robert Kroll, a professor at MSU’s Space Science Center, operates the 21-meter satellite dish on campus.

Dr. Robert Kroll, a professor at MSU’s Space Science Center, operates the 21-meter satellite dish on campus.

Dr. Robert Kroll, a professor and researcher at MSU’s Space Center, says most people in Eastern Kentucky have no idea the facility is here.

“We are known internationally, but not locally,” he says. “It is the best-kept secret in Kentucky.”

The program was founded by Dr. Ben Malphrus in a small closet, but after moving into multiple locations — each a little bigger than the one before — a modern Space Science Center was built in 2009. NASA now contracts with the program to build and test satellites prior to launch.

The program is also home to one of the only 21-meter satellite dishes in the country. The large dish can be seen sitting on a hill overlooking the campus and is used to track satellites as they pass in orbit high overhead the Kentucky sky.

“We do a lot of different things with NASA,” Kroll says. “We can do everything here but launch the satellites.”

A space future

Professors at the Space and Science Center call Barrette one of the program’s “shining stars.”

Will Barrette talks about the satellite he built and successfully launched.

Will Barrette talks about the satellite he built and successfully launched.

But Barrette, who now has the attention of both Intel and Google, humbly shrugged at the notion that either company might want him on their staff. He has no immediate plans to join forces with a tech company, NASA or a space engineering firm. He is preparing to graduate soon with a Bachelor of Science in space systems engineering. He plans to spend the summer conducting research in Brazil before continuing his education at MSU in graduate school.

“I could have gone to UK or WKU, but this has everything that I want,” he says. “It is the community here that allowed me to go to the desert and do those things. That’s why I came to Morehead State. I knew I couldn’t get that anywhere else.”

In addition to being part of a program that is conducting meaningful space research, Barrette says he was attracted to the program because of the open access he has to the professors, equipment and some of the best minds in the field.

MSU has a 21-meter dish that tracks satellites across the sky.

MSU has a 21-meter dish that tracks satellites across the sky.

“We can do almost anything here,” he says.

Because most kids in rural Kentucky never consider a career in space engineering, Kroll says it is not enough to simply inspire the students within the program at MSU. It is vital to get the younger generation interested in science and space technology.

“We want to teach our kids not to be dependent on technology, but to master it,” he says.

For more information about the program, visit or

Preserving the past, embracing the future

Lynn Nickell always loved history. He always enjoyed talking to people and hearing their stories, and he especially loved old, black-and-white photographs.

Lynn Nickell sits at his desk, where he now uses Mountain’s high-speed Internet to research for his history pictorials.

Lynn Nickell sits at his desk, where he now uses Mountain’s high-speed Internet to research for his history pictorials.

Nickell put that passion to work and has written 22 books about Morgan County and its people. They are pictorials mostly, each with about 700 photos over 250 pages with captions identifying the people and describing the circumstances of the image.

“I’ve accumulated thousands of pictures over the years,” he says. “I just love those old photographs.”

Special delivery

Nickell grew up in a slower time, when people talked to one another and sent handwritten letters through the U.S. Postal Service. Both of those things served him well.

It was 1951 when Nickell became the first rural letter carrier in Morgan County. It was a job that allowed him to do what he truly enjoyed — talk with the people along his route, many of whom couldn’t read or write. He would often read their letters to them or write a reply. But mostly he loved hearing their stories.

But times have changed. The most common things delivered by mail today are bills and advertisements. And most people would rather send an electronic message than have a conversation.

Nickell’s process of researching the subjects of his photos and compiling the information for his books has changed, too. He used to spend countless hours researching and gathering information, poring through old books and records to identify people in photographs or looking up old pictures on microfiche. But the Internet and broadband technology from Mountain Telephone has made that task much easier.

“It used to take a lot of research for the caption for a single photograph,” Nickell says. “Now I am on the Internet five to six hours a day, and I love it.”

Researching the photos was always Nickell’s favorite part of putting his books together. Now that task is quick and easy — thanks to Mountain’s fiber optic technology.

Once the research is done, it’s easier to protect than paper documents and printed photos. Nickell learned the hard way in 2012 when he lost his office and many of his photographs during the March 2 tornado. He now has them all stored digitally. A high-speed connection allows photographers like Nickell to back up photos and other data off-site to ensure they don’t lose any files in the event of a disaster like the tornadoes.

“A computer is a wonderful thing — you’ve got the world at your fingertips,” he says. “And I never could spell, so Spell Check is a wonderful tool.”

Sarah’s Place

Meeting needs and empowering moms

Sister Sarah “Sally” Neale wasn’t satisfied as a nurse. She wanted to help the people of Elliott County, but her work in health care wasn’t enough.

“I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t the answer to many of the problems I was seeing,” says Sister Sally, a Catholic nun.

After talking to many women in the community, she learned that the biggest needs were job training and child care services. With this in mind, Sister Sally and Sister Maritia Smith opened Sarah’s Place in 1999 to begin filling those gaps.

“Our mission is to empower people with the tools they need to succeed,” Sister Sally says. “We focus on women and their children because it is really hard for moms to improve their situation.”

Two of the most popular services at Sarah’s Place are the nurse’s aide health care certification program and the child development program, which is the only state-approved child care facility in Elliott County.

Chief Executive Officer Ashley Traylor helps procure grant funds for the program.

Chief Executive Officer Ashley Traylor helps procure grant funds for the program.

The grant-funded, not-for-profit program expanded to include surrounding counties and has helped thousands of people improve their lives. Last year alone, Sarah’s Place provided more than 27,000 services to almost 5,000 families, triaged more than 3,400 phone calls for help, provided more than 16,500 hours of services to clients and taught nine classes.

“We really are a resource center,” Sister Sally says. “We get questions about everything. We may not be able to do anything about it, but we can refer them to someone who can.”

Aside from providing valuable job skills, one of the best things about the nurse’s aide program is the way it embraces technology to teach much of the coursework online. This is valuable for single moms who can participate in the class without worrying about what they will do with their children.

The program is primarily an online course, but students are required to come in to demonstrate their proficiency.

The program is primarily an online course, but students are required to come in to demonstrate their proficiency.

Nurse’s aide students will still have to come to the Sarah’s Place facility in Sandy Hook to demonstrate the skills they have learned, but the Child Development Center at Sarah’s Place allows them to drop off their children there during class and once they get jobs.

Ashley Traylor, chief executive officer at Sarah’s Place, says the facility also offers CPR and first-aid training, family caregiver classes to help families understand about caring for a sick or elderly family member and parenting classes. It also houses an income-based food pantry program that provides monthly groceries to those in need.

“We want to do the most good that we can,” Traylor says. “Sister Sally and Sister Maritia have a real love for this community, and they are willing to do anything they can to help people.”

Students in the nurse’s aide program at Sarah’s Place demonstrate the skills they have learned in the program.

Students in the nurse’s aide program at Sarah’s Place demonstrate the skills they have learned in the program.

In the future, the facility hopes to provide classes in Morgan and Carter counties for people with limited transportation as well as provide basic computer classes.

“Technology is the way of the future; there is no doubt about it,” Sister Sally says. “Many people have very basic computer skills, and we hope to provide computer training in the future.”

For more information about Sarah’s Place, visit or search for them on Facebook. You can also call them at 606-738-4270.

Scholarship winner pursues dream

Brianna Lindon grew up with three Australian shepherds and 18 horses — so no one was surprised when she decided she wanted to be a veterinarian.

Brianna Lindon’s love of animals led her to pursue a career as a veterinarian. She is a freshman at Morehead State University.

Brianna Lindon’s love of animals led her to pursue a career as a veterinarian. She is a freshman at Morehead State University.

“I’ve just always loved animals,” she says.

Lindon is well on her way to realizing her dream. She is a freshman at Morehead State University majoring in pre-veterinary science. She is helped along the way thanks to a scholarship from Mountain Telephone.

“It really helped me out a lot,” she says. “It is a big help in paying for my tuition and books.”

Lindon, a 2013 graduate from Morgan County High School, was one of 17 students from Morgan, Menifee, Elliott, Wolfe and Bath counties that won a combined total of $48,000 in scholarships from Mountain in 2013.

Mountain has awarded scholarships since 1988 when it first partnered with Morehead State University. Through the partnership, the students must attend MSU. Mountain will pay half of the scholarship funds, and MSU will cover the remainder. Over the past 25 years, Mountain has awarded scholarships to more than 400 students.

“We are really grateful for the partnership with Morehead State that enables us to offer scholarships to these hardworking and deserving students,” says Shayne Ison, general manager at Mountain.

Each year, an independent committee typically selects four students from Wolfe, Morgan, Menifee and Elliott counties and one student from Bath County to receive the four-year scholarships.

The scholarship amount was $2,500 per year from 1988 to 2009. Beginning with the 2010 graduating class, the scholarship amount increased to $3,000 per year. The scholarships are awarded based on the students’ grade point average, teacher recommendations and written essays.

Lindon says she wrote about what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she hasn’t wavered from that. She wrote about her love of animals and her desire to study animal sciences.

While in high school, Lindon was active in the FFA program and played both basketball and volleyball for the Cougars. This past fall she worked part time at the White Oak Pumpkin Patch, and she is now focused on her studies and enjoying the college experience.

“It’s a lot different than I thought it would be, but I am really enjoying it,” she says.

Once she completes her undergraduate studies at MSU, she plans to attend veterinary school at either Auburn University or the University of Tennessee — two of the South’s premiere veterinary schools.

“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a vet,” she says. “The scholarship from Mountain is really helping me out.”

For more information about scholarships from Mountain, visit