BENHAM--- Despite the common narrative that Appalachian youth are leaving the region for opportunities elsewhere, many of them are taking action to build a just and sustainable economy in eastern Kentucky. This weekend, young people are gathering at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn for the Solutions Summit, a youth-led and youth-focused event hosted by the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition. The summit is a space for young Appalachians to discuss what it means to work toward a just economic transition and talk about the importance of an economy that is good for workers, keeps wealth in Appalachian communities and protects the region's resources.
Event organizer Tracy Blevins said it is important for young people to know they have the power to create the future they want for their home communities. She says the institutions and organizations currently working to transition Appalachia’s economy should make a greater effort to include young voices at the decision-making table as Appalachian youth are the region’s future leaders and workforce.
Chase Gladson is in the eighth grade at Cumberland Elementary school. Gladson says he is attending the summit to learn how he can help build a new economy in eastern Kentucky. “I want to live here when I get older, this is my home. I want to have a job here and raise a family here,” Gladson said.
The event includes a panel highlighting existing businesses that are leading the movement for a just economic transition as well as workshops that emphasized building grassroots power and jumpstarting the new economy. The Solutions Summit is part of KSEC’s Solutions Tour, an effort to fill the gap in economic transition efforts by amplifying the voices of young people, highlighting businesses and industries at the forefront of the transition, and giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to create and participate in the new economy. These youth are showing the state that young people are not apathetic, rather they are taking initiative to create the future they want to see.
Youth Assembly for Just Economic Transition
As the coal industry continues to decline, youth from across central Appalachia are gathering in Whitesburg, Kentucky, this Sunday to learn about and discuss successful models of economic transition. They will also discuss how young people can be active in diversifying the local economy.
This is the first in a series of youth assemblies co-hosted by the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition and the Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project aimed at providing a platform for young Appalachians to weigh in with their own ideas for creating a fair, diverse and sustainable economy. The series is the first phase of The Solutions Tour, a project of KSEC’s Just Transition Working Group. In the second phase, the JTWG will present their findings from the assemblies to coalition partners, politicians, and the public.
The first assembly takes place at Appalshop’s Boone Youth Center in Whitesburg, KY, on November 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Those who plan to attend are asked to register in advance.
KSEC is building a youth movement for an environmentally just and sustainable Kentucky. The network of students educates their peers in environmental issues, trains them in civic engagement activities and grassroots organizing strategy, stands in solidarity with environmental student groups across the state, and supports three working groups that emphasize just transition, political engagement, and local food.