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Introducing a Mon.-Fri. newscast tracking the 2020 Elections, starting with Iowa, First in the Nation. Tea Party Republican Joe Walsh enters GOP race; Sen. Bernie Sanders explains what he means by "Democratic Socialism;" and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee drops his bid for the Democratic nomination.

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Students in Kentucky's Coal Region Support Power+

These high school students from the coal fields of eastern Kentucky say their hometowns need the federal investment that the White House's Power Plus Plan proposes. (Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative)
These high school students from the coal fields of eastern Kentucky say their hometowns need the federal investment that the White House's Power Plus Plan proposes. (Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative)
December 21, 2015

HAZARD, Ky. – The White House's proposal to reinvest in coal communities across Appalachia has a group of young, tech-savvy allies.

Student leaders from 17 high schools in 14 eastern Kentucky counties have voted, unanimously, in support of the Power Plus Plan.

The resolution comes from the 34-member Appalachian Renaissance Initiative Student Senate.

Cameron Wright, who graduated from Letcher County Central High School last year, is now the group's organizer. He says the plan is a great way to help communities hurt by the loss of coal jobs.

"We've seen such decline in eastern Kentucky in the coal industry,” he states. “It's not just affecting coal miners and coal executives and all the people involved in the coal industry. It's a trickle-down effect.

“It's hurting small businesses and large businesses alike in eastern Kentucky. It's hurting families, it's hurting everyone."

Wright, who is now in his gap year at Yale University, was a member of the Student Senate last year.

He says the students' endorsement of Power Plus is "very powerful" because they are the region's future.

"Students in eastern Kentucky are making their voices heard about what kind of future they want to see,” he stresses. “What kind of future would make them more prone to stay here and raise their families and create businesses, contribute to making this place a more economically robust area."

Wright and Student Senate member Stacie Fugate both say focusing on technology is a good way to craft a new economy.

Fugate, a junior at Hazard High School, says while the region should not move away from coal all at once, it must transition towards a clean-energy economy.

"My ideal is that anyone graduating from high school will already be tech savvy and they can go into the workforce having a good understanding of technology and real-world situations where you would need to use that technology," she says.

Fugate says like many of the students, her family has ties to the coal industry. She says her older brother was recently laid off from his job as a miner, which hit home.

"This budget proposal goes toward, like, the retraining of miners and to further their education, and that's what my brother wants to do,” she says. “Now that he's been laid off, he now wants to further his education."


Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY