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Project targeted drug abuse, homelessness

“You don’t have to be great at something to start, but you have to start to be great.” This statement by Zig Ziglar describes my tenure as a high school senate member. The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) established a program empowering students to serve as a liaison in their schools between students and faculty, which enhances student welfare. Being self-motivated, I enjoy being involved in various school and community programs. Not really understanding this obligation fully, I found myself needing to write a grant for something that would improve my school and community. What better topic to tackle than the opioid crisis. I initiated partnerships with teachers, businesses and local government officials. After collecting extensive research data on drug rehabilitation graduates, I saw a need for lowering the relapse rate. Intertwined with drug abuse comes student homelessness, so my desire was to help provide them a safe living environment.

Like the quote states, I was not great at grant writing. Actually, this was my first experience and my idea was originally rejected; however, I did not stop there. I continued to fight for a cause I believed in. I had to participate in a review and resubmission process before I convinced the funding committee to be supportive and allow this opportunity. Keep in mind; I am diligently working on this process while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in honors classes, dual-credit college classes and the most rigorous electives my school offers.

During the implementation process, there were many conflicts and struggles. I had to continuously learn to persevere and overcome. With local partners working alongside me in this effort, we were able to complete four tiny homes. So the next question, where we can set up these tiny homes? Again, through the generous help of others we were able to secure property for placement. After making such great progress, another snag was being stuck in the permitting phase for the development of the land. Following numerous contacts with the state government, we were awarded permits for establishing utilities to create a tiny home subdivision.

This endeavor, which began as a blank slate, has blossomed into something beautiful. It has received national recognition, and I have been awarded various honors for my dedicated work. Exceeding all the accolades, the benefits of developing this tiny home project has been the most satisfying part for me. I never imagined what I did not know how to start would actually start something of such greatness. I enjoy seeing the positive outcomes of this project and my personality characteristics are a good match for sticking with an undertaking until it is complete. My tenure as a senate member will be ending upon graduation, but I am committed to follow and be an advocate for this project until its implementation is successful. This brings the old saying, “Hard work pays off” to reality. I’m thankful that my hard work is benefitting my classmates and our community.

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(Editor’s note — Caleb Ashley 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)