universal-previewdata-DBprereleaseKentucky 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 Austin Coomer


From the Latin word humanus.









Our goal in life is to be a great human being. But aren’t the qualities of a true human already great? I can count on my fingers the people who I would classify as all of these things. We should strive everyday to be a better person than we were the day before. It is, however, hard to do this. We all struggle. It isn’t easy to be polite to someone who isn’t polite to you. It’s hard to be philanthropic when we are all so selfish. Being a human is hard in today’s society.

But we are society.

We can change ourselves.

It only takes one match to cause an explosion.

You can be that match.

I’m not saying you’ll be able to change the whole world by yourself. But if you can make just one person happier then you’re doing society a service. You’re contributing to the betterment of the aggregate of people you’re around.

Go against the grain. You’ll be surprised by how much a smile makes an impact on someone. Your smile can cause a chain of smiles. A chain of happiness. A chain of change. And it all starts with you.


Austin is a student at Lee County High School.

About GEAR UP Appalachia, GEAR UP Promise Neighborhood

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.