Making a Difference:
KET Programming

That's what means the most to me: having something that's decent to watch and when you turn it off, you can say, 'I've learned something'.

Rena Brashear

Letcher County

The Appalachian Mountains are indelibly written on Rena Brashear's heart.

It's where she’s lived her whole life long, wandering the hills in search of the herbs her Cherokee grandmother taught her to use, and offering help and healing to many in need. And like many people from this part of the world, she wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

But like her neighbors, Rena—who grew up around Jenkins and in Letcher County, where she now lives—can't do many of the things that city-dwellers take for granted. When she hungers for the cultural wealth of the world, Rena turns to KET to fill a need for beauty and knowledge beyond her beloved hills.

"I love it here, but I think how different my life would have been had it not been for KET," she said from the home she shares with her husband, Rick, near Ulvah in Letcher County.

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I would not have known about the New York Philharmonic or Baryshnikov or Egyptology," she said. "The kids' programs were great, and I loved them, but I know I'm an old soul, and I always leaned more toward the adult programming."

A lonely child whose strict upbringing left her without many friends, Rena turned to new friends she found through KET to open up the world to her eager young mind.

"If I could have any escape from the life that I lived, KET was my escape. And I wasn't just sitting in my living room at my grandmother's watching the ballet—I was in the audience, in awe of what they were doing."

Watching a PBS production of Macbeth prompted young Rena to persuade her grandmother to take her to the Jenkins library, where she astonished the staff with requests for the works of William Shakespeare. After watching a program on King Tut, she clamored to learn more about ancient people.

"I got interested in archaeology and in second grade I was checking out books on bas-reliefs and archaeology and Babylonian and Sumerian hieroglyphics," she remembered. "I just loved to learn."

Each new production added another layer to her development: upon watching the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado, she discovered a love for opera. Once exposed to classical music, she quickly formed an affinity for Mozart. Programs like Nova brought the world of science to her doorstep.

"I love it especially when oceanography is featured," she said. "I'm scared of water, so this is as close as I'm going to get!"

Just recently her son, Alex, a student at Eastern Kentucky University, watched part of Nova's "The Four-Winged Dinosaur" in Richmond, while at the same time she was watching the program at home. When they reunited for a visit at a local restaurant, everyone was amazed at their lively discussion over the recent scientific findings and how they're challenging old ideas about the origin of bird flight.

"There is so much, so much on—just a vast array of programs that attracts everybody," she said. "You don't just decide to watch one program at seven o'clock and that's it."

Frequently Rena and her daughter, Tajghi, look for programs such as Celtic Woman to watch together, or offer PBS Kids programs to Tajghi's young stepchildren.

"At any given time, I can turn on KET and know I'm not going to get an infomercial. I get informative news. I get television shows that are proper to watch. You have documentaries, movies...That's what means the most to me: having something that's decent to watch and when you turn it off, you can say, 'I've learned something.'"

Whether it was a program on World War II she viewed as a grade-schooler, which prompted yet another trip to the library to find out more about a newly introduced concept, or providing her own children with wholesome, informative programs throughout their early years, KET has always been one of Rena's touchstones.

"KET was my lifeline into another world beyond the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and for that I will always be forever grateful," she said.

"If every channel we had led with the heart, instead of with what sells, just think how much better off everyone would be. KET leads with the heart."