By KSEC Staff
Just talking about our vision for the new economy is not enough, we’ve got to get to work building it. That’s what the Solutions Summit is about. Getting connected and learning how to be active in the just transition. Whether you’re interested in starting a small business, learn to be an advocate for initiatives in your community or just want to feel connected to other young people who can envision something better, the Solutions Summit has something for you (especially if you’re between the ages of 14-30!). Check out this line-up!
Friday night we’ll kick off the evening around 6pm at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn (out of towners-we’ve got you covered with rooms, just make sure you register) and we’ll get to know each other a little bit over dinner. We’ll wind down the evening making some collective art and have some late night options for our night owls.
Saturday will be jam packed with learning and meeting awesome people who are already doing the work to build a new local economy in East Kentucky. We’ll start the day exploring what it means for an economic transition to be just and what we want to see for the economy of our communities. In KSEC we define a just transition as a transition to an economy that is good for workers, keeps wealth in our communities, and protects our natural resources. From there we’ll have an awesome keynote speaker and a panel highlighting several community members working towards diversifying the economy through local food, finance, and small business. After lunch we’ll have some workshops to help you learn more about how to build grassroots power (Grassroots Power Building 101 and The RECLAIM Act) or how to build the new economy (Worker Owned Cooperatives and Small Business Support). We’ll come back together over dinner and then enjoy the music of The Woodsheep.
Sunday will be a little slower paced with a couple of options for the morning to check out some cool things happening locally in Harlan County or to watch some of great videos produced by young people through the Appalachian Media Institute. Then we’ll come back together for a chance to wrap up the weekend, exchange contact information with our new friends and talk about how we can support each other in staying involved in the growing just transition movement. We’ll close out the weekend with a final meal together and head home to get to work!
By Caci Gibson, Eastern Kentucky University
I am new to KSEC, but I don’t feel that way after the Spring Summit. As a delegate, I started my year-long term late; my introduction was to help plan the Summit. I can’t deny I was nervous leading up to last weekend. I barely knew anyone and I was going to be sharing space with them for three days. What if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t like them? What if I decided KSEC wasn’t the place for me? What if our plans fell through?
By Friday evening, my nerves had disappeared. Everything came together when we came together; we adapted and moved forward even when plans needed to be adjusted. Through collaboration, conversation, and reflection I learned more about myself and how I want to spend my time. As it turns out, KSEC is the place for me.
Nearly one week later, I’m still processing my feelings. The Spring Summit had two workshop tracks: environmental education and environmental activism, with the goal of expressing the importance of both. This gave me an insight into environmental activism that I haven’t had before. Environmental education has always been important to me and I have planned to pursue a career in the field for as long as I have known it was a possibility. I knew I’d figure out the details later (which really meant that I wasn’t quite sure where I was supposed to be). Activism always seemed like a foreign concept. In my mind, it was a narrow path that was open only to those with encyclopedic knowledge of the legal system and a willingness to delve into politics. Environmental activism and environmental education always seemed like separate fields, although they did support one another.
On the other hand, activism had always been in the background of my life. Growing up in Bell County, I connected deeply with my Appalachian roots. With the decline of the coal industry, I share a sense of anger and loss with my peers, family, and neighbors. For many of us in this region, the only way forward has only ever been to fight - a sense of resilience and solidarity deeply ingrained into my culture. As a result, I have always felt compelled to pursue a better future for Eastern Kentucky.
After reflecting on the Summit, I would express a more nuanced view that environmental activism and education are the same path - one that is broad enough for people with diverse histories, methods, and goals. Activists are educators, lobbyists, community organizers, politicians, concerned citizens, and more. Educators, in the same regard, are not limited to a singular mold. Educated citizens become activists when they feel empowered to advocate for themselves and their communities. With this realization, I feel like I’m one step closer to concisely answering the question “What do you want to do?” I am excited to be more involved with KSEC and to learn skills that will prepare me for work, both as an activist and an educator.
The Spring Summit left me feeling like I was part of a community - a community that is diverse, resilient, and hopeful. Now more than ever, I feel empowered to seek out opportunities to be a force for change. I look forward to attending Catalyst (KSEC’s summer training program for aspiring organizers) this summer as another opportunity for growth and perspective. In the meantime, I am exploring what my personal activism will be.
By Zebeeb Nuguse, KSEC, duPont Manual High School
The Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition is sick of feeling ignored.
We have taken upon ourselves the burden of inspiring change for an environmentally just and sustainable future in a place where most of our political leaders couldn’t care less. KSEC is demanding change and fostering a network of youth from around the state to be engaged in Kentucky’s politics.
We’ve created an expansive network of college and high school campuses across Kentucky to share ideas and resources.
Since we were founded in 2007, here's a snapshot of some of the victories we've accomplished:
KSEC is now at a crossroads. It’s time for our growing coalition to think bigger, figure out how to unite our campuses, and make a greater impact. That's why we're beginning a Strategic Planning process—to help our coalition navigate through this moment.
The KSEC Strategic Planning Core is now working to launch a long-term planning process and focus on our organization on uniting the youth environmental movement in Kentucky. This process is an opportunity to evaluate our victories and expand on them, and it's an opportunity to become more effective at helping save the environment by uniting and connecting students at the state level and creating space for passionate and innovative youth leaders to emerge.
As students and youth of Kentucky, we are empowering ourselves. We are Kentucky’s bright future, and together we are creating a plan that can’t be ignored!
Are you in Kentucky and want to plug in? Join KSEC at our Fall Summit October 21-23rd to weigh in on this important process!
By Sammy Meador, Intern, KY Student Environmental Coalition
By Miranda Thompson
Going to school instate, in Kentucky, was not my first choice- not by a long shot. In fact, it was essentially my last choice. And I tried to be positive about staying, but it was hard. I had wanted so badly to live my dream and get out West, and it seemed like every one of my friends were going to far off places, and here I was in the last place I wanted to be. I spent my first semester being bitter and feeling stuck. My only moments of escape were on Kentucky Lake with the rowing team while the leaves were turning, the herons flew so quietly, the sun set on one side of our bay and the stars came up on the other side as we rowed. The lake was beautiful- but it wasn’t enough to change the fact that I still hated being in Kentucky.
But, this past weekend has changed that: with a new organizer and a new sense urgency, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition (KSEC) convened in Bowling Green, with representatives from 6 different schools present, to re-build. We spent many hours in workshops given by our organizer, Cara Cooper, and Tyler Offerman. Many a cup of coffee and tea was had by each member and some of the workshops were on heavy subjects- but as soon as we started to get stiff from sitting in one spot for too long, we were up on our feet doing “Grassroots stretches” and dancing to a regional favorite: “Wagon Wheel”. So we learned about oppression and how to campaign and how to tell a motivational story, but we also danced and listened to music and painted and laughed together. The KSEC summit brought together students from all different reaches of the state of Kentucky and gave them the determination and skills to make their campuses a better place, and by the end of it, we all had friends that we couldn’t let down. So together we made decisions- unanimous ones at that. Each person had intelligent points to offer and every single person there was invested in the weekend. I knew that I was among truly good people. Good people who loved Kentucky.
When we were sitting in the meeting room this weekend, and we were making unanimous decisions that we, as students of Kentucky, would do to make our state and our campuses better with campaigns for divestment and green fees, I was so amazingly proud of this state and my fellow students. I was finally proud to be in Kentucky. We may not have the Rocky Mountains, but we have the Appalachians- so quiet and secluded and filled with people who have been their for generations and have unconditional pride for their mountains but have to watch the tops blown off of them as nothing but ash and rock fall back on to what once was a forest. We have rich soil and tireless farmers with calloused hands to harvest the crops- but the soil and the food is loved less and less as food is taken over by corporations. We don’t have Yellowstone, but we have the largest underground cave system in the world, one of the hottest climbing spots in the country, and a land between two lakes that is essential for conservation and recreation. And we have wind and we have sunshine- both of which are being neglected as sources of energy in our state.
There are lakes and bluegrass fields and forests and gorges. There are farmers and bike riders and big cities and small towns. Kentucky has a lot. Kentucky has people who love their land and their homes and their cities. And now, thanks to the KSEC summit, Kentucky has college students who care about their state- and intend on making changes for the better.
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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