From working at flea markets with his family to leading his high school football team to victory, Clark Payne learned the value of hard work early on. Today, his strong work ethic and enthusiasm for helping others guide him in his work as Full-Service Community Schools Coordinator at Middlesboro High School, where he makes a difference in young lives every day.

“It’s awesome being able to open doors for kids,” Payne said. “I was always blessed to have people do that for me.”

Growing up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Payne spent much of his time working alongside his family. He enjoyed meeting new people, striking up a conversation and finding common ground. This interest in human connection inspired him to study Anthropology and Sociology at Centre College, and eventually led him to his current job with Partners for Rural Impact.

As school coordinator, Payne’s duties include being a caring adult for students, leading Why Try trainings (a student wellness and resilience program), taking students on field trips and planning engaging learning activities.

The best part of his job?

“Changing lives, even if it’s just one kid.”

Assistant coach Clark Payne pictured with the Middlesboro High School football team

In addition to his full-time position, Payne is also an assistant coach for the Middlesboro High School football team. He credits his former football coach Kevin Wallace with inspiring him to be a leader. Payne says it has been an honor to learn from Coach Wallace and MHS head coach Larry French, two of the most winning football coaches in the state.

Empowering youth is one of the driving forces in Payne’s work, both inside the classroom and out on the field. Payne strives to be a positive role model for his students, encouraging them to challenge themselves and reach their full potential.

“When I played quarterback, my goal was to empower my teammates to push beyond the limits they set for themselves,” Payne said. This mindset translates into his work with students today.

One of Payne’s goals for his students is to see them all graduate high school college-ready, a critical step in reducing poverty and creating generational success.

“College readiness opens doors,” Payne said. “Eventually, your hard work after college will help not only you and your family, but your extended family and the people who look up to you. It sets an example that spans generations.”

Payne offers special thanks to the adults that believed in and supported him throughout his life, especially his family, friends and coaches.

“My family was always supporting me and pushing me to pursue my dreams. I love them, and I hope they know how much of a positive impact they have had on my life.”

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