Kentucky Youth Advocates is sharing a series of blogs from GEAR UP Appalachia, GEAR UP Promise Neighborhood students in Eastern Kentucky. We know that youth in Kentucky are key to creating positive change for kids, and their leadership galvanizes other youth, parents, educators, community leaders, and legislators. In the Kentucky Youth Speak Up series, GEAR UP students advocate for policies, encourage other youth to serve their communities, promote strategies for student success, and motivate all of us to build the best commonwealth for Kentucky kids.
By Ellie Tarter
Being accepted into the Promise Appalachia Leadership in Service (PALS) group has been a life changing experience so far. Before PALS I would never go up to someone and start a conversation with them, let alone participate in public speaking. This group has really helped me come out of my shell and start being more confident. Being in PALS has already given me many opportunities I would not have gotten otherwise. For example, I got the privilege to speak in front of many people at Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. This was one of the most amazing moments in my life so far. It was a great experience to be able to stand on the floor right in the middle of the opening and hearing what the legislatures think first-hand.
PALS is an amazing program because I get the chance to meet all of these great people who are just as driven as I am to accomplish the tasks at hand. In the short amount of time I have known these people, I have already created numerous friendships that will last a lifetime. The memories we make now will be ones we will remember forever. Whenever the PALS get together we always have a great time together. It is amazing how no matter how long we have been apart from each other, when we see each other we can pick up conversations like we saw each other just the day before. I will never forget the people I have met and cherish all the time we have together.
The greatest thing about PALS is that the entire group is very welcoming and kind. The whole group is full of driven, enthusiastic, and all around amazing people. There are no set groups of people who hang out together, we all mix and just have an awesome time together. Being in this group has been an all-around incredible experience so far. The leaders of the group are so caring and want us to grow as people and as leaders.
Ellie Tarter is going to be a junior at Southwestern High School. She is an accomplished pianist and serves on the executive committee of her GEAR UP Leadership Team.
Recently, Ellie attended the National Council for Community and Education Partnership (NCCEP) Conference in San Francisco. She took part in the Youth Leadership Summit with students from across the country. In the video below, Ellie narrates her experience at the Conference.
GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program follows a cohort of students from 6th grade to their freshman year in college and emphasizes academic success, career preparation, and building a college-going culture in schools. Berea College has been awarded multiple grants to serve students from 17 southeastern Kentucky counties and 19 school districts: Bell County, Berea Community, Breathitt County, Clay County, Estill County, Garrard County, Jackson County, Jackson Independent, Knott County, Knox County, Laurel County, Lee County, Leslie County, Madison County, Owsley County, Perry County, Powell County, Pulaski County, and Rockcastle County. GEAR UP serves more than 14,000 students and their families.