My name is Bernadette Cutlip, but all my family and friends call me Bernie. I was born in
Dayton, Ohio to parents that were raised in the Appalachia region. We moved to the suburbs of
Indianapolis, Indiana when I was 5 years old. My younger childhood memories are of close
neighborhood friends and all the fun activities that revolve around living near a large city. We
made many trips back and forth to Southeastern Ohio for visits with grandparents, aunts, uncles
and cousins, but for me, Indianapolis was home. Southeastern Ohio was merely a great place
to visit. That was until my father bought a farm in Jackson County and moved the family. It was
the summer between my eighth grade and freshman year of high school. What was he
thinking? I was devastated!
I spent the summer sulking, but ultimately decided I was stuck in Jackson and it was up to me to
make the best of it. I rapidly discovered how friendly the people of this community were. I
immersed myself into becoming involved in every possible activity I could find: tennis, band,
summer softball leagues, Tri-Hi-Y, student council and 4-H. All of these organizations helped
instill the values of hard work, compassion, confidence, teamwork and leadership. Looking
back, I see the ability to be involved in so many different activities was a benefit of living in a
small rural community. Had I stayed in the large metropolitan area of Indianapolis, I may have
been lost in the shuffle of huge graduating classes of students.
I would generally ride the bus to school each day, which is unheard of today, and it was there
that I found my purpose. I would help the younger children on the bus with their homework
during the trip home. I would try and help my hard-headed brother with his homework as well.
Teaching just seemed to be what I was meant to do. I enrolled in Rio Grande Community
College. My plan was to attend 2 years there and transfer to Indiana University to complete the
course work and graduate. That plan was disrupted when my mother was diagnosed with
cancer. As bad as that diagnosis was, I again witnessed the loving, kind hearts in the small
rural community of Jackson. I graduated from Rio Grande College and taught 27 wonderful
years for Jackson City Schools.
I now live in a different area of the Appalachian Region, Tennessee. I love to watch the sunrise
peek over the Smoky Mountains and enjoy the numerous outdoor activities this area offers. I
volunteer at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and continue to substitute teach because it is
what my heart longs to do. With children and grandchildren still in Ohio, I take many road trips
back “home” for visits. My family and lifelong friends from Jackson are always close to my
heart, for these people, along with that area, helped mold me into the person I am today. I am
truly thankful and blessed that God chose to plant me in the Appalachian Region.