The Alltech Challenge: Opportunity Knocks

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By Ken Begley

I’m a 37-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and now the U.S. Army Reserve. 

My misson for the past several years is to teach future officers in the ROTC program at Centre College in Danville.
My students are extremely intelligent, disciplined and athletically-gifted individuals.  
The truth is, this worn- out old sergeant has little he can really teach them.
Yet, there is one area I feel strongly about and I stress over and over again.
When opportunity knocks, you better be smart enough to recognize it, and quick enough to grab it with both hands because it may never come back again.
Well, opportunity is knocking now for our community.  
So the question is:  “How smart and quick are we collectively as a community?”  
It’s going to need everyone to grab on to this opportunity before it gets away.
The Alltech Corporation in Springfield is owned by Dr. Pearse Lyons and his wife Mrs. Deirdre Lyons.  
Alltech employs over 2,650 individuals around the globe.  
This corporation uses research and development to help farmers feed the world, raise healthy animals and protect the environment.  
Dr. Lyons got his start as a biochemist in Ireland.  
Mrs. Lyons is the chief promoter of Alltech, and it’s their goal that one day their rapidly growing brand will be as familiar to the world as Muhammad Ali and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Dr. and Mrs. Lyons have a passion for America and the communities where they have established factories.  Springfield is now a part of their family.  
They want us to succeed in this world, and it’s their belief from their experience in business that it can come from science.  
They also believe that you can only help people that are willing to help themselves.
This is where the opportunity is coming from.
Alltech has offered to gift enough money to establish an educational facility that St. Dominic has never had.  
It’s a fully-equipped and funded science lab.  
This gift will run in the neighborhood of $175,000 to $200,000.  
That is unbelievably generous when you consider that the entire yearly budget for St. Dominic and the education of some 200 local students (Catholic and non-Catholic) is only around $600,000.
But, now is the time to show the Lyons’ that we are willing to help ourselves.
St. Dominic’s classrooms are old.
The main building was constructed in 1929, and most of the rest were constructed when I was a kid in 1964.  
A modern lab has to be housed in modern infrastructure.  
It doesn’t mean a new building.  
It means adding new electrical wiring to support equipment needs, adding plumbing so water can be brought to the lab, combining two classrooms into one and upgrading the HVAC system.  
In short, we need to raise about $100,000 to meet building codes in order to receive this gift of close to $200,000.
This type of proposition is only the latest made by the Lyons.  
They have made the same offer to numerous educational institutions over the years and many labs have already been built.  
St. Dominic is only the latest school to be approached with the offer of a furnished science lab.
So, how important is a science lab?  Do we really need it?
Well, here is my background before I give you an answer.
I’m a former St. Dominic School board member.  
I have degrees from three different colleges, have taught as a senior and chief instructor for the Army Reserve since 1993, worked as an instructor and administrator in a college setting, worked as an treasury agent for the IRS and have worked in a large manufacturing company with as many as 1,100 people since 1994.
The truth is, we don’t need that lab now. We needed it 10 years ago.
You see, we worry so much about a child’s college education, and it is a big worry.  
But the truth is, the most important years of learning for a student are preschool through the eighth grade.  
That’s proven fact.
If the student gets behind in those years, then the likelihood of doing poorly or dropping out in high school skyrockets.  
Kentucky is currently thinking of increasing the dropout age from 16 to 18 because of the epidemic we have in young people not finishing high school.  
While our legislators’ intentions are good, they are at the wrong end of the stick.  
More emphasis at the beginning will lower the disastrous results at the end.
Ill-educated people do not draw high technology factories or businesses, and the fact is they are all high-tech anymore.  
The days of swinging a wrench to tighten one bolt on the assembly line are rapidly dying.
The better educated students we have to supply to our manufacturers and other industries, the more likely those businesses here will stay and new ones will come here to set up shop.  
Students going on to college or a technical school will have greater success and lower overall costs if they arrive without the need of remedial instruction for what they should have learned in grade school and high school.  
Again, that’s a proven fact.
Finally, good jobs translate into stability for the family and community as a whole.  
That’s just common sense.
Getting a science lab for countless thousands of students that will use it over the years is one more small step in helping the future generations to come.  
We will all appreciate this when we’re sitting in the old folks home depending on their support at that time.
I do hope you help St. Dominic raise this $100,000.  
No gift, and I mean no gift, is too small, because many hands make light work.  
Please send your tax deductible donations to St. Dominic Elementary School at 309 W. Main Street, Springfield, Ky., 40069.
The ball is now in our court, and the Lyons are waiting to see what we will do with it.
Take care my friends.