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WKCTC Graduate Receives Prestigious Scholarship

PADUCAH, KY (04/25/2018) Graves County's Dallas McKinney, a 2017 spring graduate of West Kentucky Community and Technical College has been busy making sure he's well on his way to his dream job since transferring to Western Kentucky University last fall. Studying to be a meteorologist, McKinney has recently applied and was selected for several accolades, including being one of 120 WKU undergraduate students to be chosen for the prestigious Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship.

As only the second WKU student to be selected for the honor in the past five years, McKinney will receive up to $9,500 to support two years of academic study and a paid summer internship beginning the summer of 2019 at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) facility.

Administered by NOAA, the scholarship honors the legacy of Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina. Senator Hollings played a major role in the creation of NOAA and the enactment of a number of laws to protect the environment, such the Sustainable Fisheries Act and the Oceans Act. The Hollings Scholarship is designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science and recruit students for public sector careers with NOAA and other sciences agencies at all levels of government.

"I am very excited to be a part of the Hollings Scholarship Program and represent my home region of western Kentucky. I am very grateful to be chosen for this program as it will allow me to focus on my education for the next two years and work with National Weather Service meteorologists through the summer internship," said McKinney, a Mayfield native. "Being chosen for the Hollings (Scholarship) feels like a validation to me that hard work pays off and that other people will recognize your efforts to do your best."

McKinney said he is grateful to those who helped him in not only being selected for the scholarship, but for being positive role models in his life.

"I first want to thank the Lord for giving me this opportunity, and also my parents who have loved me and supported my dream of becoming a meteorologist," said McKinney. He added he is also thankful for WKCTC's Dr. Victor Taveras and WKU's Dr. Scott Dobler for writing scholarship reference letters on his behalf, as well as for the support of professors, teachers and friends at both colleges, and his high school mentors at Mayfield Creek Christian Academy.

"They have all helped mold me into the leader I am today: a timid, shy Dallas who spent all his time in the library studying probably would not have won this scholarship. Some people dream of success; others stay awake to achieve it," said McKinney.

In addition to the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, McKinney has been accepted to the nationally competitive NASA Student Airborne Research Program (SARP). As one of only 28 students selected for the program, he will get to fly for the first time and spend eight weeks in southern California conducting research with NASA beginning June 17, 2018.

"I put down much about my leadership experiences at WKCTC, and that definitely helped me get selected," McKinney said.

He served in various leadership roles while at WKCTC, including serving as Student Government Association president (he is now an active member of WKU's SGA), a student ambassador, and a member of the college's Iota Eta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. McKinney, who received an Associate in Science degree before transferring to WKU, was the student speaker at the college's May 2017 Commencement and WKCTC Board of Director's first student Unsung Hero Award winner.

In addition to his studies at WKU, McKinney is currently working as an intern forecaster at Weather Or Not Bowling Green, a local weather television station near the university. He writes a three-day forecast blog post - @wxornotbg - every Thursday morning.

"This (internship) is letting me use the writing skills I developed at WKCTC in Mr. Britton Shurley's creative writing class that I took just for fun, but is now helping me in my career," said McKinney. "In so many ways WKCTC changed my life and prepared me for WKU and what lies ahead of me in the future."

Registration for 2018 summer and fall classes at WKCTC is underway now. Visit westkentucky.kctcs.edu.