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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