Corbin High School Media Students Shine Light on Youth Homelessness at East Kentucky Leadership Conference

Four student panelists address the audience from on stage
Student panelists Jayce Howington, Makenna Wilson, Addison Bonham, and Chloe Smith


East Kentucky Leadership Conference – May 8, 2024

During the opening day of the Eastern Kentucky Leadership Conference, attendees from across Appalachia sat in silence as they listened to a panel of Corbin High School students share stories shedding light on youth homelessness and housing insecurities.

Thursday’s student panel consisted of Bailyn Scent, Josh Edwards, Chris Broughton, Mackenzie Hutton, and Addison Bonham. They were joined by moderator, Trina Bustle, Associate Director of Student Voice and Wellbeing at Partners for Rural Impact.

Broughton, a senior at CHS, opened the discussion by defining homelessness for students, emphasizing that it encompasses those lacking a regular nighttime residence, including migratory children and those awaiting foster care.

“I hadn’t realized the full scope of homelessness until this project,” Broughton commented. “It’s not just about being without a home; it’s about the instability and uncertainty these kids face every day.”

Edwards, also a senior, shared the poignant story of an 18-year-old high school senior living at Ryan’s Place, a shelter in Knox County. Her journey, marred by instability from an early age, highlighted the challenges many face within the foster care system.

“When I interviewed her, she told me about some of her experiences at different foster homes,” Edwards said. “When she was 12 years old, she remembered being dropped off at night on the side of a street where she slept on the steps of a church and begged for food on the streets the next day.”



Bonham, a junior, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the need for improved screening of foster care parents to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable children. She also expressed support for raising the age limit for foster care eligibility and for programs that offer financial or other assistance to those in this situation.

The students’ research revealed alarming statistics: during the 2022-23 school year, Kentucky saw 21,634 homeless students, with 389 in the tri-county area alone, representing an increase from previous years.

In response to their findings, the students called on local leaders to allocate resources for a homeless shelter in Corbin, advocating for sustainable solutions to address the root causes of homelessness.

The Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Gayle Manchin, joined the panel discussion via a Zoom call. Manchin shared her thoughts on the students’ research and shared her excitement in seeing young people getting involved to help resolve these issues.

On the second day of the conference, a second student panel from Corbin High School premiered their documentary, “Corbin: Heart of Appalachia,” crafted by the CHS Media 101 Class. The film highlighted Corbin’s economic struggles and the community’s resilience in the face of adversity.

The video began by describing the changes Corbin has seen over the years.

As communities across America grapple with housing issues, Corbin is taking strides to improve the neighborhoods and provide affordable housing for every one of its residents.

Initiatives like the White Flag Ministry, established by First Baptist of Corbin in 2017, provide crucial support to those in need, symbolizing the city’s compassionate spirit.

“While housing and redevelopment are vital to Corbin’s future, tourism also plays a key role in driving economic growth,” said the video’s narrator. “Corbin’s historic charm and natural beauty attract visitors, fueling local businesses and revitalizing the downtown area.”

The students interviewed the Mayor of Corbin, Suzie Razmus to discuss the future of the city.

“I’m super proud of our downtown,” said Razmus. “We led Southeastern Kentucky in a lot of ways in revitalization of our downtown. It’s something we worked hard on, and we continue to see business thrive and new business come in.”

Following the premiere of the documentary, filmmakers Chloe Smith, Makenna Wilson, Jayce Howington, and Addison Bonham fielded questions from moderator, Bustle, as well as the audience.

“Throughout the conference, Corbin was referred to as a “Comeback Community,” said Bustle. “And I think the students did an excellent job showing that in the documentary as well as answering questions about homelessness like pros.”

The final question of the session was asked to all students: What does the word home mean to you now that you have completed your research and this project?

“My opinion on the word ‘home’ has changed a lot since working on this project,” said Howington. “I thought home was just a place you lived in, but now it’s so much more than just a four-letter word. Home means a safe place where you can go at the end of your day and spend time with your family and be happy.”

Watch the student’s documentary, “Corbin: Heart of Appalachia” below or by visiting the Redhound-TV channel on YouTube.

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