Growing up in Appalachia has made me more resilient


Kiki Dean

By Kiki Dean, Contributing Columnist

The day I was born, I became an ignorant Appalachian hillbilly. I was born to a stereotypical Appalachian family: a generational coal miner and a high school dropout. I have had a particularly diverse raising with multiple challenges in my community, unlike many others in the United States as well as inside my home state of Kentucky. I was raised in a devastated coal mining community; a 10-minute drive from the nearest coal  mining site, but an hour’s drive from the nearest grocery store. In this community of economic devastation  and isolation, I have had to confront multiple adversities in a variety of forms and rely on my secluded community for support.
When my father was a coal miner, he was away for multiple days at a time. He broke his back to afford my family’s living expenses. My mother had returned to school, often taking my siblings and myself to work and classes. I quickly learned how to cook, clean and fix things around the house as young as I could to help lessen the burden on my already struggling family. My daily routine consisted of going to school and returning home to my older sister to assist with the daily chores and complete any house improvements needed. 
However,  due to a lack of money in my community, numerous coal mines in my community claimed bankruptcy and laid off their workers at the last moment. My father has been abruptly laid off multiple times from the coal mines, leaving us with little to no income. Thankfully, throughout all of the layoffs, my community has offered endless assistance: colleges offered reduced-priced classes while fundraisers paid for bills and groceries. I truly learned the meaning of poverty; from watching my family members being laid off from their only source of income, to my community providing endless support.  I admire my community because of the endless support my family, and many others like it, has received. They helped afford our extensive list of bills: my mother’s student loans, my father returning to school in hope of a better job, and there were three children to provide for on a daily basis. 
Many people in my community took similar paths. A countless number of current or past coal miners have dropped out before high school to pursue the back-breaking career of coal mining. Many of my friends from middle school dropped out to join the coal mines because that was “the only option.” I want to show others that it is possible to pursue other careers and ideas. I want to show others that it is possible to pursue other careers and ideas. Realizing the adversities my community faces, I have become creative in my pursuit of college and careers. My community has also made me resilient and determined to end the poverty that suffocates it.

(Editor’s note: Kiki Dean is a student in Tami Brock’s English 102 class at Harlan County High School and wrote this essay on growing up in Appalachia as part of a class project)