This summer Kentucky Youth Advocates is kicking off 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 will 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 Emalee Patton

As many people know, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in the nation. Our school is the hub of our community; therefore it is important that the students do what we can to better it. Many of our school programs, such as band, cheerleading, golf etc. do not receive very much funding. This makes it very hard for our school to excel in these areas. Lauren Riley and I made it our mission to help out one of these programs that struggle the most, the OCHS band.

We both knew that just simply placing signs up and asking for donations, or a food drive wouldn’t be successful in our school system, so we had to come up with a plan that would get everyone involved and excited. Owsley Cbandounty is a basketball school. The main focus of the winter months to almost all students and community members is basketball season. So what better way to raise money than a basketball game? Lauren and I hosted a Student VS. Staff basketball game to support the band on April 10th.

Since we were raising money to support the Owsley County music programs we let the main focus be on them. The choir sang the National Anthem, and the band played at various times throughout the event. The game was completely run and directed by students with the support of some staff. Our senior basketball team members were the coaches and referees. The coaches had to recruit their own teams and get them together. We had 10 very generous and willing staff members participate in the game including the superintendent and principal. The way we made money was by charging a $1 admission fee to enter, by selling concessions, and by charging player fees to participate in the game.

Wband 4e faced quite a few issues in getting it set up. We had initially planned on bringing the elementary school students over to watch the game, which would have double the money from the door, but scheduling conflicts prevented that. It also was a struggle to do all of the contacting, phone calls, and poster making while maintaining our workloads in class. Another difficulty was getting all of the staff to commit to take time out of their busy days to play in a basketball game. The challenges were many and the frustrations were real. But when Mrs. Noland nearly teared up as we handed her a check, we knew our struggles meant a lot to others besides just us.

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Emalee Patton will be a junior at Owsley County High School. She is captain of the cheerleading team, member of the track team and the golf team. She is a part of the PALS leadership team. Her future plans include attending the University of Kentucky, majoring in biology, and then going on to medical school to become a Neonatal Surgeon.


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.