Teen leaders come together to learn, discuss, and make a difference

What does it look like when teenagers from across the region come together to talk about how they could have a positive impact on their communities?

Pictured from left to right: Abigail Sell, Emily Garlen, Maegan Wilder, Keisha Brock, University of the Cumberlands Patriot, Brooklin White, Kristen Kersey, Andrew Jones, Amber Garrison, Jayden Jones

These discussions took place at the University of the Cumberlands during a one-day leadership institute through the Berea College GEAR UP grant (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) and its partner College for Every Student (CFES).  The event was held on August 11, prior to the start of the school year.

To start the day, students listened to Dr. Michael Colgrove, vice president of student services at the University of the Cumberlands, as he described lessons in leadership from the military.

Throughout the day, students had the opportunity to break into smaller county groups to discuss issues facing their counties: drugs, unemployment, poverty, educational attainment and others.

To end the day, students from Bell and Knox counties gathered to compare issues between the two counties and to brainstorm ways they could improve their communities. Each group left with an outline of a plan to make a difference in the community.

“It’s so encouraging to hear the fresh ideas that our teenagers bring to issues facing our communities,” said Kelli Moore, Berea College GEAR UP service coordinator, who planned the event. “They appreciate the opportunity to be heard and to be given the freedom to step out and make a difference.  With leaders like these students, the futures of Knox and Bell counties look bright.”

Students attending the event included the following: Lynn Camp High School: Jayden Jones, Brooklin White, Abigail Sell, Keisha Brock, Kristen Kersey, Maegan Wilder, Andrew Jones, Amber Garrison and Emily Garlen. Knox Central High School: Devon McVey, Cherish Gray, Courtney King, Danielle Grubb, Hallea Barnhill and Meredith Russell. Bell County High School: Meghan Bailey, Karlee Cox, Madison Mason, Ginni Gambrel, Katelyn Wilson, Caitlin Abbott, Kaylee Brown, Klowie Ortiz, Amber Sizemore, Tanner Fox, Alicia Mason, Cole Raines, Tyler Reese, Adam Stepp and Sadie Blevins.

Events, such as this leadership institute, are funded through Berea College’s GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education (2011-2018) totaling $149,408,000 (50 percent federal funds and 50 percent non-federal funds).