Floyd Central High School (KY)

Floyd Central High School (KY):

Student Stories

Floyd Central High School cheerleaders raise their pom-poms into a heart shape. (Photo by Brittany Greeson)

Neglecting the story of innovation in eastern Kentucky

By Chad Bates

Eastern Kentucky, a beautiful and engaging region based in the heart of Appalachia, is often negatively portrayed in the media. Stories told about this area often overlook important and positive stories about the region. One of those overlooked stories is the innovation in the area, despite the loss of the coal industry. Even though the eastern Kentucky coal industry — which was a major part of this region’s economy — is practically dead, this does not stop us from finding ways to innovate in education, and to bring new industries to boost the morale and livelihood of this community.

In education, the region has moved forward with technology and with opportunities for advanced high school students to take college classes. In my county, there is a program that was only implemented three years ago, in which every fifth-grader receives his or her own personal laptop for schoolwork. It gives all students access to technology; it makes assignments easier and lets students access an unimaginable amount of information. For older students, there is the Floyd County Early College Academy. This program is lets advanced juniors and seniors in Floyd County attend classes at Big Sandy Community and Technical College. The program allows these students to take a step ahead of other high school students across the state by taking college classes as juniors and seniors in high school.

In the past two years, long since the coal industry was booming, cities in eastern Kentucky have continued to grow and build new parks, restaurants.the The city of Pikeville has seen a host of new restaurants and stores, and even a new shopping plaza. The Pikeville Medical Center recently underwent construction, adding almost 11 more clinics to the hospital, along with a new parking garage, and operating rooms.

Finally, new industries are getting established in eastern Kentucky to replace the thousands of coal jobs that left. Leaders in Pikeville have pushed for the new Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park. Several companies have shown interest in building plants here and bringing back high paying jobs. The region has also won grants to help train and rehabilitate miners who have been laid off to find jobs in areas such as business, management, and healthcare.

Over the course of my short life, I have seen many news outlets falsely report what eastern Kentucky is. News outlets have reported that the region’s residents are welfare-dependent, racist, and uneducated. Living in this remarkable region, I can say that those biased perspectives are not true. The people here are some of the most down to earth and accepting people I have ever met, they are hardworking, and most of all, they have good morals. The landscape is beautiful, unique and truly appreciated.

The opioid crisis in eastern Kentucky

by Alexis Hall

There are many positive aspects in my community, a small town in eastern Kentucky, but we also have our issues. I think it is important to address these issues, instead of ignoring them. The biggest issue I see in my community is drug abuse. Many people believe that abusing drugs is a choice; but it’s more complicated than that.

My parents were great people from what I remember as a little girl. My mom was a teacher and my dad used to work in the coal mines, a common job in Kentucky. When I was about six years old, my dad seriously injured his back while working in the mines. He was unable to work again for a long time, and was prescribed strong pain pills that would eventually be the destruction of my family.

Eastern Kentucky has dealt with high rates of obesity and prescription opioid addiction. (Photo by Ben Brody)
Eastern Kentucky has dealt with high rates of obesity and prescription opioid addiction. (Photo by Ben Brody)

After a couple years, my dad got worse and worse. He would abuse the pills without being aware of what was happening. My mom wanted him to quit, but I believe it was too late. I always believed it was a simple choice of being an addict, however, it’s always been more complicated than that. People don’t consume drugs, drugs consume them. After years passed by, my family and all of our traditions began fading away. I noticed how the holidays aren’t like they used to be, less food on the tables, fewer decorations in the front lawn, and laughter replaced with silence.

The media tend to portray drug abuse as something that can easily be solved by handcuffing the victims. These people need more guidance than one night in a county jailhouse. There are not many rehab centers available in my area, so there are not many solutions. I understand that not all people who use drugs are ready to hear about rehabilitation. But a lot of people are struggling with a desperate need for help that goes unnoticed. Being the daughter of current addicts is not easy. Being the “girl whose parents are on drugs” is something I still have to learn to deal with in a small town. I want people to know that not all addicts choose to be homeless, or choose to lose their families. Drugs take that away from good, decent people and it happens every day.

Animal abuse and neglect in eastern Kentucky

by Lizzie Jones

Kentucky has repeatedly been ranked the worst state for its animal protection laws by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an animal rights law organization. In eastern Kentucky, where I’m from, I’ve witnessed dog fights at local events, where people place bets on dogs. Sometimes the dogs fight to the death. In addition to dog fights, animal abuse and neglect comes in other forms, including starvation, abandonment and breeding animals for sale in unsafe conditions. I know of other animals, such as horses, being starved and chained up in my community. Pets are like humans in so many ways: they need the necessities like food and water, but also love, care and attention.

We now have many business owners and veterinary offices taking action, but they cannot do it all on their own. I find comfort that we as a community are helping not only our friends on four legs but other smaller animals, like hedgehogs and ferrets.

Sheena Maynard is a community member who is stepping up to help neglected and abused animals. She is one of the founders of local rescue, Refurbished for a Purpose, a team that volunteers their time for animals in need of a permanent home. This includes fostering them, spaying and neutering them, and providing all their needs and wants until their “forever” home is found.

She said pet breeding, owners who become unable to afford to take care of their pets, and pet owners who abandon their pets after their “cuteness” wears off are some of the reasons animals are abandoned or abused.

It’s all about coming together as a community and helping hands, and paws, in this case.

The truth of the mountains

By Katie Stumbo

Growing up in an extremely rural community, I have learned that “Kentucky” has a negative connotation. People who are not from around here believe the stereotypes that are tethered to eastern Kentucky. The media has portrayed us as unsophisticated, animal-killing, cousin-loving hillbillies. I, for one, have fallen victim to these insults. People who do not live around here have referred to me as a “hillbilly from the head of the holler.” Constantly hearing the negative things people have to say about the place where you come from eventually begins to alter the way you perceive it.

A cluster of homes are seen among a expanse of trees and kudzu from an overpass in Martin Ky., on Friday, September 22, 2017. (Photo by Brittany Greeson/GroundTruth)
A cluster of homes are seen among a expanse of trees and kudzu from an overpass in Martin, Kentucky, on Friday, September 22, 2017. (Photo by Brittany Greeson)

There have been times in my life when I felt embarrassed to say that I am from eastern Kentucky because I was worried about what people would assume. A few years ago, I tried to make myself have a proper accent because I did not want to be associated with eastern Kentucky. It got to the point where anytime I travelled outside of Knott County, I would attempt to change the way I spoke. I would use bigger words and try to speak with a more northern tone. I always felt weird about changing my accent because I felt like I was abandoning the place and the people who had done so much for me. I allowed people who had no idea about the reality of eastern Kentucky to manipulate how I felt about the place I was born and raised.

I struggled with accepting this place as my home for years. However, one day I went outside to help my dad feed the animals on our mini-farm and I experienced an awakening. I looked around and examined the mountains that surround my house and I smelled the freshly cut bluegrass that was sticking to my bare feet. I watched my goat kids playing on the mountainside and I remember thinking to myself, “Does anyone else in the world ever get to witness beauty like the beauty found in eastern Kentucky?” Looking back, I wonder if the people who made me feel embarrassed to say that these mountains are my home had ever seen them. Had they ever seen the morning fog as it slowly begins to rise above the Appalachian Mountains? Had they ever smelled freshly cut bluegrass?

I grew to admire and appreciate the tree-filled mountains that hide the reserves of coal. The valleys that are filled with hungry flowers ready to capture the morning dew. I grew to appreciate the late night conversations I had with my family on the front porch, with the symphony of frogs and crickets in the background. I found myself soaking in the nature around me.

Every night around one o’clock in the morning, I lay awake in bed waiting for the screeching sound of the old coal train as it creeps along the track. I lay silently listening to our dogs howl as it passes, and waiting for the horn to blow as it speeds into the solid black night. The train carries what was once the heart of our economy, the black gold that has influenced so many lives here. Almost every family has a connection to the coal mining industry. When it dried up many families had to pack up and ditch the beautiful mountains for the suburbs, where more jobs were available.

I have been blessed to be able to travel a lot for my age, but I always find myself longing to come back to the mountains, the same mountains I used to not want to be associated with. Eastern Kentucky has that effect on people; they always find themselves yearning to come back. I am proud to call this place home.