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SOAR group works on strategy to keep young people in Eastern Kentucky

By: Tanner Hesterberg Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg Email

BUCKHORN, Ky. (WYMT) - Finding ways to keep young people in Eastern Kentucky when they start their careers was the topic of discussion Monday evening in Perry County.

More than one dozen people attended a listening session of the Leadership Development and Youth Engagement work group, launched as part of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative.

Group leaders asked young professionals and community members at the meeting what could be done to make the region more attractive to young people.

"How do we make young people feel like they're a part of their communities, how do we make them feel like they're at the table and that they have a say?" group chairman Johnathan Gay said. "Because if they don't have a say, they're not going to be here. We feel like they are our most valuable resource."

Gay acknowledged many young folks leave the region to find work, but believes more of them would stay if they were aware of opportunities that exist.

"We're really trying to close that knowledge gap by getting out and talking about what it is that we're doing," Gay said.

Ethan Hamblin, a Perry County native who works for Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, said students should be educated at an early age about opportunities for them to live and work close to home.

"You have to start when they're five years old and really make them believe in the place," Hamblin said. "And make them feel invested in the place. That's through education, community organizations and non-profits."

Group leaders will compile a report of three to five recommendations to present to the SOAR Executive Committee.

The meeting was held at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park.

More meetings of SOAR work groups will be held in the coming weeks. To see dates and times, visit www.soar-ky.org

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