Hailing from a working-class family in the southern Appalachians, Denise Jacobs says she probably never would have gotten a college education without an academic scholarship at Sullivan Foundation partner school Alice Lloyd College (ALC). Now an assistant professor of business at ALC, Jacobs hasn’t forgotten what the school did for her, and she’s paying it forward to others in the area who are struggling to make ends meet.

Jacobs founded Power Up for Nutrition, an ALC community outreach program for food-insecure children, in 2014. She was troubled to learn that some students at Jones Fork Elementary School in Knott County, Kentucky, weren’t eating all of their lunch food—instead, they were taking some of it home to their hungry brothers and sisters. In response, Jacobs worked with ALC’s Phi Beta Lambda organization, a group of students in an economics class, and several other campus groups to form Power Up.

Denise Jacobs (far left) with her children, Brynnan, Colton and Connor and husband Byron.

“I tend to be very left-brained, and I think that can be a good thing when it comes to organizing efforts to give back what has been given to us,” Jacobs said. “Some of the kids at Jones Fork Elementary … are food-insecure. They were saving snacks from lunchtime at school to take home and share with their younger siblings because they don’t always have food at home. We noticed some kids at church were doing the same thing during youth group events as well, and I knew something could be done.”

Jacobs and her colleagues in the Joe Craft School of Business currently give out 30-plus bags of food to food-insecure elementary students every weekend. They provide food that won’t spoil quickly, such as crackers, fruit and pudding cups, and other snacks with a long shelf life.

It’s all part of Jacobs’ commitment to service at a school where service is taught as a lifelong mission. “I don’t think my siblings and I would have been able to attend school were it not for Alice Lloyd,” she said. “We were able to get academic scholarships and made it through with no debt, which was at one time unheard of for working-class families in Appalachia. The opportunities here are very limited.”

After getting her degree in Business Administration, Jacobs earned her MBA at Morehead State before returning to ALC to continue the school’s tradition of serving the surrounding mountain communities.

“ALC was willing to help me out if I was willing to work hard and improve myself in the process,” she said. “Those lessons really stuck with me. I’ve always found a work ethic to be a very noble and honorable trait. It gives one the confidence and dignity needed for success.”

This story is adapted from two articles appearing on the ALC website.


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