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By Ken Begley
"Can't" never "did" nothing.
- Unknown author
. . . is just beginning.
Next time you go into Mordecai's Restaurant I want you to be on the lookout for a young WCHS senior working there part-time as a hostess. Her name is Katie Cambron and she recently won the most prestigious college scholarship to come out of Washington County in several decades. The award of this scholarship brings great honor for herself, her family and the public educational system in our community.
No brag, just fact.
Katie is the daughter of Joe and Carolyn Cambron in the St. Rose area of our community and is one of 10 individuals selected for the University of Louisville's Senator Mitch McConnell Scholars Program beginning this next academic year.
I'm intimately familiar with the McConnell program because I had a daughter, Renee, in the finals for it three years ago. Renee is a pretty sharp young lady and was valedictorian of her class. However, so were all the other candidates with impressive resumes that were jaw dropping extensive.
We spent two grueling days down at the University of Louisville while she went through a mind boggling interview process. We met personally with Senator Mitch McConnell and talked with him for a few minutes as well.
My daughter did not make the final cut.
Katie Cambron did.
She is now the first student from Washington County selected for this honor.
Senator McConnell put this program together as a legacy that he hopes will capture the best and the brightest leaders of the future for Kentucky. He wants them to stay in their own state and give us all a brighter tomorrow by developing leadership skills through liberal arts seminars, "great book" discussions, domestic and international internships and a variety of networking opportunities. Senator McConnell has invested a great deal of his time, political capital, and personal treasure in this academic creation.
Those internships mentioned above have included students working for a few months in the offices of political rivals of McConnell like the late Senator Teddy Kennedy. He brought in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to talk with the McConnell Scholars. In fact, past participants have met many world leaders to include "two sitting U.S. presidents, two Supreme Court Justices, six Secretaries of State, and numerous U.S. Senators, ambassadors and leaders of foreign nations. The students will be spending five weeks in China in addition to numerous other educational trips around the country and abroad for the next four years. You can go to the U of L website and see photos of Vice President Biden talking one-on-one with the McConnell scholars today.
Yeah, it takes my breath away too.
So how did a country girl of this small county achieve such a high honor?
It didn't happen overnight.
Katie showed a remarkable intelligence combined with a driving curiosity at an early age. I could now tell you of the many honors, awards and positions of leadership that she has earned along the way. I could tell you of teachers that recognized her talents early on like Mrs. Lydia Robertson and Mrs. Christie Metcalf at WCES. I could tell you of teachers like Mrs. Sarah Raikes at WCHS that mentored Katie and helped to harness all that potential and increase its power exponentially in leadership roles.
Nevertheless, that's not where I'm going in this article.
For you see, it appears to me, that Katie's real strength is based on a bedrock of family values that supported and shaped her as she grew.
It came from a hardworking, loving dad that worked the third shift at a factory and farmed but would take her with him everywhere starting at six weeks.
It came from brothers Nick and Joey who were 9 and 13 when she was born. They were rough and tumble farm boys but cherished their new little sister and would even let her, starting at 1 year old, watch them do their homework at night.
It didn't stop with her family at home.
It came from her grandfather Robert "Judge" Cambron from whom she inherited her love of current events and politics. It came from her grandmother Louise who would sit in the floor with her when Katie came home from preschool and played school with her. Of course, Katie was the teacher and Louise was given "homework" that had to be completed by the next day.
It came from her grandfather Ralph Farmer of Marion County through his grit and determination at facing all challenges in watching over his family. It came from even the sad events in life. Katie would religiously visit her grandmother Dorothy when she was dying of colon cancer and brighten her day. Dorothy would always tell Katie when she left "You took a lot of heartaches off this old heart of mine today."
Finally, you see those words in the quote at the beginning of the column. Ever hear that phrase before?
Katie seldom thought there was anything that she couldn't do. But when there was doubt in her heart her mother Carolyn was there to remind her that "can't" never "did" nothing. She encouraged her to reach high by always believing in Katie.
So remember the next time you walk into Mordecai's Restaurant that the hostess waiting on you today might be talking with the President of the United States tomorrow.
The story continues and a grand adventure in life begins.
Editor's note: Ken Begley is a columnist for The Springfield Sun.