Two University of the Cumberlands students have been awarded the Lewis Appalachian Scholarship in recognition of their academic promise and genuine desire to give back to their community.

This year's recipients are Erika Creech (Cumberland, KY) and Gannon Couch (Carrie, KY). The Lewis Appalachian Scholarship is a $1000 non-renewable scholarship that was established by Cumberlands alumnus Derek Lewis and his wife in 2012.

“The purpose of this scholarship is to identify students from Eastern Kentucky who have a strong passion for helping others and see areas in which their communities could be improved,” Lewis stated. “Over the years, I have been very impressed with the caliber of applicants. These are young people with bright futures ahead of them. My challenge to them is to pay it forward, in their own way, and create the change they would like to see in their communities.”

Erika Creech says she is very passionate about her hometown and wants to use her college education to help make an impact in her community, especially considering the amount of impoverishment that exists there. The scholarship will help her achieve that goal.

“I work hard for my future, because I want to prove to my county that there is hope,” Creech said. “This will affect my future success and achievement outcomes because I will not take my opportunities for granted.” 

Gannon Couch said he grew up in a small faith-based community and hopes to use his faith and kindness to help better the lives of others. 

“This small area has etched an everlasting impression on my heart,” Couch said. “I feel the overwhelming drive to put others first and to complete whatever task is set before me is an essential skill that will follow me for the rest of my life. All of this leads up to the overwhelming desire to give back to my small community that has given so much to me.” 

Lewis graduated from Cumberlands in 2009 with bachelor’s degrees in accounting and communication arts. He then went on to earn his master’s degree from Western Kentucky University. Since that time, he has been heavily involved in his community.

Lewis currently runs a variety of businesses in Eastern Kentucky, including a family-owned pharmacy, a commercial property company, a residential property company, a handyman service, and a seasonal sales company. He also presides over the Hyden-Leslie County Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Housing Developmental Alliance board, sits on both the local and regional boards of Appalachian Regional Hospital (ARH), has assisted Trails of Leslie County by building hiking/mountain bike trails and mapping out kayak/canoe trips along the Middle fork of the Kentucky River, and is a member of the Leslie County Community Foundation, an affiliate of Foundation for Appalachia Kentucky. 

Lewis currently serves as State Representative for the 90th District serving Laurel, Leslie and Clay counties.