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Kinship Care Activist Katie Okumu

Kinship Care Activist Katie Okumu

Renee's guest is 18-year-old Katie Okumu of Berea who was raised in her early to late teens by her great-grandmother. She is one of the nearly 70,000 Kentucky kids raised by grandparents or other extended family members, called "kinship care." Okumu served on the First Lady's Youth Leadership Council that works on issues affecting Kentucky children. She is currently attending Harvard University.
S12 E46 Length 26:27 Premiere: 8.25.17

Kinship Care Advocate Katie Okumu

Katie Okumu is one of the 70,000 Kentucky children being raised by family members other than parents. In her case, Okumu’s grandmother and great-grandmother stepped up to care for her and her brother after the death of their mother more than a decade ago.

Now the 18 year old is set to face a new life challenge that she says is both exciting and heartbreaking: She will leave the familiarity of family and her Berea home to relocate to Boston, where she will enter Harvard University this fall.

Before she left for school, Okumu appeared on KET’s Connections to share the story of her life and discuss her efforts to lobby for more state support of kinship caregivers around the commonwealth.
 

 
Katie Okumu has no memories of her father or mother.

Her parents were married, but her father moved back to his native Kenya before she was born.

Her mother had mental health problems and committed suicide when Okumu was about a year old.

That’s when her grandmother stepped in to raise Okumu and her older brother. Okumu says her grandmother was a kind and giving woman who did her best to give them a normal childhood despite her age and her struggles to pay the bills and put food on the table. She even told young Katie stories about her mother, and complimented her for being as passionate a speaker as her mother had been.

“But there are a lot of little things that can’t be filled in by stories and memories, so I always felt the loss of her presence in my life,” Okumu says of her mother.

Then in 2012, her grandmother died of breast cancer. Okumu says it was like she’d lost a second mother. That’s when Ruby Ferrell, Okumu’s nonagenarian great-grandmother, took over raising the children.

“As long as I’m alive, I’ll try to keep a place for them to come back to,” Ferrell says in a 2014 short video that photojournalist Rachel Psutka produced about the family.

“I don’t think I would have been as successful as I am now if it hadn’t been for her influence and her constant dedication to raising my brother and I,” Okumu says. “I think that I’ve grown into my own confidence a little bit about where I’m going and what I can achieve, and I think that’s because of her and because of her continued support.”

A Passionate Advocate for Kinship Caregivers
Okumu excelled at school and as a singer. She attended to the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts to study musical theater. And she’s been civically active, participating in the Promise Appalachia Leadership in Service group and serving on First Lady Glenna Bevin’s Youth Leadership Council that works on issues affecting Kentucky children.

Okumu says she was five-years-old when she wished she had had someone who understood what she was going through and could advocate for her. That’s why she’s worked to help other children in kinship care situations.

“It’s about the 70,000 other young people in Kentucky who are living in the same circumstances I have, [but] who might not have had the opportunities that I have been given by hard work but also by chance, by people walking into my life at the right time,” she says.

The state once provided small stipends to kinship caregivers like Okumu’s grandmother and great-grandmother. Those caregivers tend to be older and have limited incomes, which can make it difficult to take on the expense of raising young children.

But the state ended those support payments several years ago during the budget crisis. Okumu and other kinship care advocates want lawmakers to restore those stipends.

“Kinship care families aren’t just asking for a hand out,” Okumu says. “Kinship care parents are the hardest working people in the commonwealth in some cases and they deserve not only financial support but emotional support and prayer.”

Embracing a Positive Outlook on Life
Okumu’s lobbying efforts will have to take a temporary back seat to her college education. She received a full scholarship to Harvard where she hopes to study government or sociology. She says the thought of moving to Boston is daunting, but she says the people she met when she visited Harvard’s campus helped put her at ease.

“I was really surprised and captivated by the kindness that I felt from fellow incoming students,” Okumu says. “So many passionate young people who are wanting to make real change in the world… I’m very excited to be surrounded by that.”

Then there’s the prospect of leaving her great-grandmother, who Okumu describes as her best friend. In recent years, Okumu has taken on more caregiving tasks like driving, cooking, and shopping for Ferrell who is now 96 years old. Okumu says she’ll call her great-grandmother every day to talk and make sure family and church friends are taking good care of her.

“I don’t think I can express in words how heartbreaking it is to leave,” Okumu says. “I think if I said that I wasn’t going to go, she wouldn’t take that answer very kindly. In her words, I fulfilled her wildest dreams and she couldn’t be more proud of me.”

For a young woman who endured the death of a mother and grandmother as well as the loss of a father who chose not to be part of her life, Okumu has learned to have a positive view of life.

“The bitterness that I once had about what I lost, what I wasn’t able to have, is gone,” she says. “I think everything happens for a reason, whether it be a wonderfully amazing or a really difficult circumstance.”

Okumu says she’s excited to embrace the new challenges her life at Harvard will offer her and eager to bring those experiences back with her to Berea.

“I always hope to come back to Kentucky,” Okumu says. “Kentucky raised me… It will always have a special place in my heart.”

Program Details

Connections

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Each week, host Renee Shaw and a variety of interesting and engaging people - including business leaders, entertainers, authors, celebrities, and more - explore a broad array of topics impacting Kentucky and the world.

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Early Childhood Development Initiatives in Louisville

Renee Shaw speaks with Kevin Fields, president and CEO of the Louisville Central Community Centers, Inc., and pediatrician Dr. Beverly M. Gaines, president and CEO of Beverly M. Gaines M.D. and Associates, about a collaboration to enhance early childhood learning experiences.

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Sabrina Butler and Kate Miller - S9 E19

Renee talks with Mississippian Sabrina Butler, the only female death row exoneree, about her wrongful conviction and her quest to end capital punishment, and with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky spokesperson Kate Miller.

  • Monday August 2, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Vershawn A. Young - S9 E20

Renee talks with University of Kentucky professor Dr. Vershawn A. Young (aka Dr. Vay), an expert of the contemporary African American experience, about his latest published work, Other People's English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy.

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Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker - S9 E21

Frank X Walker, named Kentucky's 2013-14 poet laureate, talks about his latest collection, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, and other works and projects.

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50th Anniversary of the March on Frankfort - S9 E22

Renee discusses the 50th anniversary commemoration of the 1964 March on Frankfort with historians and participants including: NAACP Louisville leader Raoul Cunningham and former state Senator Georgia Davis Powers.

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Aaron Thompson - S9 E26

Aaron Thompson, executive vice president and chief academic officer of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, discusses the state budget for higher education and the impact on student tuition.

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Elizabeth Helm-Frazier

Renee Shaw talks with film producer and veteran Elizabeth Helm-Frazier about the only all-Black Women's Army Corps (WACs) battalion to serve overseas during World War II. The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was sent to Europe to clear a backlog of millions of pieces of mail, ensuring American troops received letters from home. A new documentary called "The Six Triple Eight" honors their legacy and service.

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Dr. Janet Taylor - S9 E29

Renee speaks with Dr. Janet Taylor, psychiatrist, certified life coach, and national commentator on work-life balance and mental health issues.

  • Tuesday August 10, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Djuan Trent - S9 E30

Former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent talks about her decision come out as a gay woman, reaction from family and friends, her activism in advancing gay rights and marriage, and more.

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Hasan Davis - S9 E31

Renee speaks with former Kentucky Commissioner of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Hasan Davis, about recent juvenile justice reform. Davis was featured in the recent PBS Frontline program "Prison State," about Kentucky's correction system, and interviewed for KET's follow-up program, Prison State: A Kentucky Community Conversation.

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Prison Reform In Kentucky - S9 E32

Renee continues the discussion about Kentucky prison reform recently highlighted on the PBS Frontline program "Prison State." Her guests are: Mark Bolton, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections; Sheila Schuster, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and mental health advocate; and Ray Larson, Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney.

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Connections

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Ted Strader - COPES - S9 E33

Ted Strader, the director of the Council on Prevention and Education: Substances, Inc. (COPES) in Louisville, discusses how partnering agencies with the corrections system can help former inmates with successful re-entry into society.

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Colene Elridge - S9 E34

Renee speaks with human resources professional and life coach Colene Elridge, better known as Coach Colene, owner of Be More Consulting.

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Rape Culture - S9 E35

Renee's guests are Mae Suramek, executive director of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center and Rus Funk, executive director of MensWork- Eliminating Violence Against Women.

  • Wednesday August 18, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Betsy Johnson, Saundra Ardrey

Host Renee Shaw speaks with Kentucky lawyer, Betsy Johnson, who once argued a case before the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then, Renee speaks with Western Kentucky University Political Science professor Saundra Ardrey about the legacy of Justice Ginsburg, the centennial anniversary of women's suffrage, and racial unrest in light of recent police-involved killings of African Americans.

  • Wednesday August 18, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
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Mental Health Courts - S9 E36

Kelly Gunning, director of advocacy and public policy, NAMI Lexington (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and Public Defender Jon Landon, discuss mental health laws in Kentucky.

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Dr. Timothy M. Houchin - S9 E37

Renee speaks with Lexington psychiatrist Dr. Timothy M. Houchin about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Houchin is a board-certified adult, child/adolescent, and forensic psychiatrist, and the founder and president of 360 Mental Health Services in Lexington.

  • Friday August 20, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Connections

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Charisse Gillett - Lexington Theological Seminary - S9 E38

Renee speaks with Dr. Charisse Gillett, president of the Lexington Theological Seminary. Dr. Gillett is the first woman and first African-American selected to lead the seminary.

  • Monday August 23, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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African Americans and Mental Health - S9 E39

Renee speaks with Sycarah Fisher, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky, and Shambra Mulder, an assistant professor in the School of Education at Kentucky State University.

  • Tuesday August 24, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Wil James - S9 E40

Renee talks with Wil James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky.

  • Wednesday August 25, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Dr. Robert Hilgers - S9 E41

Renee speaks with Dr. Robert Hilgers, founder and president of the Global Women's Cancer Alliance (WGCA). The WGCA works to advance women's health, addressing particularly those in need of cancer care in developing countries.

  • Thursday August 26, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Judi Jennings - S9 E42

Renee's guest is Judi Jennings, former executive director of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, feminist art advocate, and writer.

  • Friday August 27, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Marta Miranda - S9 E43

Renee speaks with Marta Miranda, chief empowerment officer of the Center for Women and Families in Louisville.

  • Monday August 30, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence - S9 E44

Lexington moms LaTosha Reynolds and Tonya Lindsey talk about losing their sons to gun violence and how the group they founded, SWAG - Sisters and Supporters Working Against Gun Violence, is working to keep youth safe.

  • Tuesday August 31, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Frontier Nursing University - S9 E45

Drs. Susan Stone and Julie Marfell of Frontier Nursing University discuss the institution's 75-year legacy as the longest continually-operating and largest midwifery program in the nation.

  • Wednesday September 1, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Tanya Torp and Holly Houston - S9 E46

Community Activist Tanya Torp, program director for Step by Step, a mentoring ministry for at risk single mothers, and Holly Houston, a family court lawyer and co-founder of GLOW - Greater Louisville Outstanding Women, discuss social justice, youth empowerment, leadership development, and girl power.

  • Thursday September 2, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Elizabeth Helm-Frazier

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Early Childhood Development Initiatives in Louisville

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History Maker; Tuskegee Airmen History - S9 E14

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Middle Class Struggles and Poverty - S9 E13

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The Forgotten Minority - S9 E12

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Human Trafficking - S9 E11

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Diabetes Prevention and Control - S9 E10

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Kathy Werking; Jim Embry

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Innocence Project - S9 E9

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Pop Culture and Commodification of Women - S9 E8

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Ruth Brinkley - KentuckyOne Health - S9 E5

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Malcolm Ratchford - S9 E4

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Roszalyn Akins - S9 E3

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Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack

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  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

Betty Baye - S9 E1

  • Friday July 16, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 16, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 16, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 16, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Marcie Timmerman - Mental Health and Wellness - S13 E43

  • Thursday July 15, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 15, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 15, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 15, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Tiffany Manuel - Affordable Housing - S13 E42

  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Shining a Spotlight on Epilepsy - S13 E35

  • Tuesday July 13, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 13, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 13, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 13, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 13, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 13, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Criminal Justice Reform - Cherise Fanno Burdeen - S13 E34

  • Monday July 12, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 12, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 12, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 12, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 12, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 12, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Sarah Taylor Vanover - Early Childhood Education

  • Saturday July 17, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday July 17, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 11, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 11:00 am CT on KET

Dr. Donna Grigsby - S13 E28

  • Friday July 9, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 9, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 9, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 9, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 9, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 9, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Kosair Charities Face It Movement; Terry Brooks - S13 E25

  • Thursday July 8, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 8, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 8, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 8, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Child Marriage Laws in Kentucky - Donna Pollard - S13 E24

  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday July 7, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - S13 E23

  • Tuesday July 6, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 6, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 6, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday July 6, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Educational Innovation - S13 E21

  • Monday July 5, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 5, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 5, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 5, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday July 5, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday July 5, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Boone Co. Judge Executive Gary Moore

  • Saturday July 10, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday July 10, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday July 4, 2021 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 11:30 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 10:30 pm CT on KET
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KET
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KET

The Demands and Rewards of Fatherhood

  • Saturday July 3, 2021 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday July 3, 2021 3:30 pm CT on KETKY

Gerald Smith - S13 E20

  • Friday July 2, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 2, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 2, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 2, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday July 2, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday July 2, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

DV8 Kitchen - S13 E17

  • Thursday July 1, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 1, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 1, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 1, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday July 1, 2021 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday July 1, 2021 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Silas House - S13 E16

  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday June 30, 2021 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
Top

Season 12 Episodes

Kinship Care Activist Katie Okumu

S12 E46 Length 26:27 Premiere Date 8.25.17

Photographer Carol Peachee

S12 E45 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 8.18.17

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative

S12 E44 Length 28:28 Premiere Date 8.11.17

Sec. Vickie Yates Brown Glisson

S12 E43 Length 29:17 Premiere Date 8.4.17

Criminal Justice Reform

S12 E42 Length 28:08 Premiere Date 7.28.17

Kayla Rae Whitaker

S12 E41 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 7.14.17

Uncovering Bias in Preschool Education

S12 E40 Length 29:01 Premiere Date 7.7.17

The Latest Data on Kentucky's Kids

S12 E39 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 6.30.17

Building Leadership Skills

S12 E38 Length 29:01 Premiere Date 6.23.17

The Ali Center's Donald Lassere

S12 E37 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 6.16.17

Improving Nutrition in the Daily Diet

S12 E36 Length 27:06 Premiere Date 6.9.17

Alzheimer's Disease

S12 E35 Length 28:19 Premiere Date 6.2.17

Innovation at the Alltech Conference

S12 E34 Length 28:33 Premiere Date 5.26.17

Political Journalist Cokie Roberts

S12 E33 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 5.22.17

2017 Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit

S12 E32 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 5.12.17

Alison Lundergan Grimes

S12 E31 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 5.9.17

Sexual Trauma in the Military

S12 E30 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 5.2.17

Foster Care

S12 E29 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 4.24.17

Justice Secretary John Tilley

S12 E23 Length 29:36 Premiere Date 4.14.17

Job Training in Kentucky

S12 E22 Length 29:31 Premiere Date 3.24.17

Kentucky Tourism

S12 E21 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 2.24.17

Reducing Youth Violence

S12 E20 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 2.17.17

State Treasurer Allison Ball

S12 E19 Length 28:51 Premiere Date 2.10.17

Poverty in America

S12 E18 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 2.3.17

Homelessness in Kentucky

S12 E17 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 1.27.17

Sadiqa Reynolds

S12 E16 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 1.20.17

Cory Jewell Jensen

S12 E15 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 1.13.17

Bill Goodman

S12 E14 Length 28:37 Premiere Date 1.6.17

Promoting Health Equity

S12 E13 Length 29:01 Premiere Date 12.16.16

Kentucky's Teacher of the Year

S12 E12 Length 27:22 Premiere Date 12.9.16

Important Issues for Seniors

S12 E11 Length 28:20 Premiere Date 11.18.16

Nonprofit Organizations

S12 E10 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 11.11.16

Iris Wilbur and Colmon Elridge

S12 E9 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11.4.16

Alzheimer's Disease

S12 E8 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 10.28.16

Activism Through Music and Art

S12 E7 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 10.21.16

Paducah's Merryman House

S12 E6 Length 28:07 Premiere Date 10.14.16

The Achievement Gap

S12 E5 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 10.7.16

Discussing Domestic Violence

S12 E4 Length 28:32 Premiere Date 9.30.16

Musician Jon Secada

S12 E3 Length 29:13 Premiere Date 9.23.16

Playwright Mitzi Sinnott

S12 E2 Length 27:12 Premiere Date 9.15.16

FDA Chief Dr. Robert Califf

S12 E1 Length 26:26 Premiere Date 9.9.16

Smoking Cessation and Pregnancy

Preview Length 29:32 Premiere Date 9.8.17

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