The STAY Project presented with 2015 East Kentucky Leadership Youth Award
Ethan Hamblin was the 2010 valedictorian at Buckhorn High School.
“But I was told to leave because I had the smarts to get out, get an education and do something fantastic,” said Hamblin. “But I never wanted to leave. This is where my family is from and this is where my story is.”
Hamblin traded his hometown in Perry County for Berea College, but not for long.
“The day before graduation I dwelled on it and decided I needed to go back because I was a part of STAY,” Hamblin said. “STAY instilled in me the know-how and the true belief that this region is the best place to be.”
The STAY Project is both youth led and youth focused. Participants said it is about young people creating a narrative for change in their community.
Hamblin said, “Stay Together Appalachian Youth implies a belief in a place and that we are all in this together.”
Members call the group a support system that prepares and introduces students to opportunities beyond the classroom.
Tanya Turner is a member of The STAY Project. Turner is currently an Eastern Kentucky Community Organizer with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.
“I’m a first generation college student and that is a hard road if your family hasn't been through this education system to know how to support you,” Turner said. “You're kind of out there on your own.”
Their first summer institute was in Harlan County at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. The program included workshops focusing on peer learning.
“I went and talked about the importance of engaging young people in grant making and the process,” Hamblin said. “Having young people be more than just volunteers and people showing up to run events, but that they've actually the ones planning events, starting initiatives and building strategic framework about how we're moving the region forward.”
Both Hamblin and Turner said STAY is building youth engagement and leadership that is here to stay in the mountains.