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Don’t let your address define who you are

Appalachian.

What does that mean? To me, it means defying the odds. Southeastern Kentucky is bombarded with stereotypes. Appalachian people “have no teeth,” “don’t wear shoes,” “are inbred” and “can’t read or write,” just for a few examples. What most people don’t talk about is the close family ties, the “southern hospitality,” and the gorgeous views. Have you ever been to Kingdom Come State Park at sunset? We live in the most imperfect, perfect place on Earth.

I have personally experienced the disadvantages of this area throughout my childhood. As a young girl, I dreamed of being a dancer. My hometown is in the middle of nowhere so where could I get adequate dance training? Of course, that would be two to three hours away. From sixth grade until now, I have traveled at least three days a week to attain my dance goals, competing coast-to-coast from Los Angeles, California to New York.

This geographical disadvantage has caused me to miss out on being “a normal teenager,” but I wouldn’t change my life for anything. I haven’t always gotten to walk in homecoming. I have missed out on school dances, and I’ve missed more ball games than I can count. Dance has taught me many life lessons and all of my sacrifices have been worth it. Dance teaches teamwork, perseverance, discipline and sportsmanship.

To aid other families with aspiring dancers, I opened a local dance dance studio a little over a year ago. I had four dancers in my first class. I now have 80 dancers and teach three different styles. Appalachian people are my people. All families do not have the means to travel to pursue a 4 year old’s dream like my family could. I never want our area to lack in the arts department. I may only be 18, but I have unmatched dance training and a passion that will not fade. Children in my area will have all the opportunities that I have had in larger cities.

Appalachian — this title does not define what I am capable of. The stereotypes do not define who I am as a person. The choices I make define me. I will break every stereotype of southeastern Kentucky. I want better for myself and my people. I will create a generation of determined, fearless, young girls through my dance studio. Nobody gets to tell us what we can or can’t do in life. Here’s to defying the odds…

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(Editor’s note — Bethany Cox is a student in Tami Brock’s English 102 class at Harlan County High School and is a member of the Bear Tracks newspaper staff led by Gear Up specialist John Henson. This column is part of a continuing series produced by local high school students)