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From Italy to Paintsville

By Amber Wilcox
Staff Writer

Michele Graziano, 16, an exchange student from Italy is one of the many students who are studying abroad in the area. Graziano attends Paintsville High School and is in the 11th grade.
Having never been to the United States, Graziano finds that there are many differences between Johnson County and Italy.
“Between here and my hometown there are a lot of differences, Milan is a really big town, almost like New York, and the culture is really different,” said Graziano. “The people here are different, I had to change the way I approached people by being more friendly. It’s not what I’m use too. In Milan everyone goes their own way; here everyone is a part of everyone else’s life.”
Graziano stated that the thing he liked most about Paintsville were the people themselves. “They care about you even if they don’t know you, they are very kind to someone who is new and that means a lot to me.”
While Graziano loves the people in the area along with the encouragement and acceptance, one of the most difficult parts of coming here has been the language.
“The language is one of the hardest things, just because it’s so foreign to you and you don’t know how to interact with people,” said Graziano. “It’s frustrating not being able to understand people, but it gets better with time.”
While here in Kentucky, Graziano has had the opportunity to try a variety of new things including different foods and sports.
“I’ve tried all kinds of food, like fried pickles, deep fried green tomatoes, and different kinds of hamburgers,” said Graziano. “I enjoyed those the most but I also love fried chicken, of course.”
Graziano also had the opportunity to take part in a sport that he had been wanting to do for some time; archery.
“I had the chance to join the archery team,” said Graziano. “It’s completely new to me but I’ve always wanted to do.”
Graziano also had the opportunity to play his first game of laser tag and to be in a parade for the first time.
While Graziano has enjoyed his time here in Kentucky, he said that he couldn’t see himself moving here to live permanently, preferring the city life over country life. “While I can’t imagine living here, I will definitely come back and visit my host family and friends.”


Johnson County Middle School students chosen to have books published
In order from left to right: Macy Conley, Isabella Stephens, Olivia Halfhill, Hilal Sofyan, Julia Davis, and Lindsay Cochran

By Amber Wilcox
Staff Writer

Six students at Johnson County Middle School were recently chosen to have their original books published. The program offered by the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) offered students the opportunity to work one on one one with an author before submitting their original works.
Christopher Epling, a Kentucky author and administrator of the sequential art workshop at KVEC, worked one on with the middle school students where he held author and illustrator workshops and helped the students polish their work.
Rachel Holbrook, Language Arts teacher and a technology integration specialist at the middle school, helped her students become involved in the program. Out of the students that participated throughout the region, Holbrook had six seventh grade students, Olivia Halfhill, Hilal Sofyan, Julia Davis, Isabella Stephens, Macy Conley, and Lindsay Cochran from her class chosen to have their works published.
“I’m really excited that they had the opportunity to work with a published author,” said Holbrook. “It helps show them that there are opportunities here in Eastern Kentucky.”
Holbrook stated that the students worked on their own time for eight weeks while meeting once a week for Skype sessions with Epling. The author also made two visits to the school to work the students face to face.
“They did their own work and they put a lot of hard work into this,” said Holbrook.
Holbrook stated that they plan to have a book signing for the students once their books arrive in April.
KVEC is currently accepting applications from those who were selected throughout the region to submit their work again with their own business logo. The six students who are then chosen through the whole region will have the opportunity to have their books sold on Amazon.

“Do I Belong”
Children’s book by Olivia Halfhill

“Help Me”
Children’s book by Hilal Sofyan

“Brutus McCay Finally Has A Good Day”
Children’s book by Julia Davis

“Emmie and the Lesson”
Children’s book by Isabella Stephens

“The End of the Tunnel”
Chapter book by Macy Conley

“From Nebraska to California”
Children’s book by Lindsay Cochran


From Mexico to Kentucky

By Amber Wilcox
Staff Writer

Lizeth Montalvo Maldonado, 18, is an exchange student attending Paintsville High School as a Junior, as required by PHS from Monclaco, Mexico.
For Montalvo coming to the United States, and to Kentucky specifically one of the biggest differences was in how we socialize.
“Its just different here, everyone seems to know everyone,” said Montalvo. “The way you all talk is very different and I didn’t under stand some of the words at first like “ya’ll”.”
One of the biggest differences that she found surprising was in how school worked here.
“The classes here are really different, at home we have classes that change weekly rather then staying in the same class,” said Montalvo.
Another difference in the school was that back home students stayed in the same room all day rather than moving to a new classroom. “We don’t change rooms, the teachers change rooms, once a class is finished a different teacher would come to teach their subject,” said Montalvo.
Another difference that Montalvo found somewhat funny was something she noticed at football games.
“Everybody here gets really excited about football,” said Montalvo. “And they shoot fireworks at the school games, no one ever does that back home.”
Back in Mexico, Montalvo stated that the real football is futball, what we refer to as soccer, and while they still have American football, the big sport is futball.
Montalvo also stated back at her home school there were never any spirit weeks and that she wears a uniform to school.
“I’m learning a lot of things here about other cultures,” said Montalvo. “And I’m getting to do things that I’ve never done, that I never thought about doing. I’ve experienced more new things in the last five months than the last five years.”
One of the activities that Montalvo has been involved in the most has been art. While taking art at Paintsville High School, Montalvo was able to participate in an art competition where she won an award for her drawing titled “Metal of Honor”.
While Montalvo stated that she would like to come and visit again, she also said that she thinks students from here should also study abroad themselves.
“I would like people to also do an exchange student program so that they can get the opportunity to experience a new culture and have new experiences as well,” said Montalvo.
Montalvo is with the exchange student organization CETUSA, Council for Educational Travel, USA. Anyone with questions or interest in hosting can reach them at 1-888-238-8721 or www.cetusa.org.
Editors note: In Spanish cultures, people traditionally have two surnames, the first being the father’s first surname and the second being the mother’s first surname.


A Christmas to remember

By Amber Wilcox
Staff Writer

This Christmas one Johnson County family received a gift that they will carry in their hearts for years to come.
On Friday, Dec. 23 Johnson County emergency vehicles and members of the community came together to help a family in need celebrate Christmas as Santa and Mrs. Clause rolled in on the fire truck to deliver gifts.
Dora Colvin was like any other four year old until drastic news was received in August when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Rebecca Colvin originally went to the doctor after having been sick for a while with kidney issues, it was there that they soon found out that it was in fact cancer. But worse news was soon to come as doctors gave Rebecca the diagnoses of Stage 4 Breast Cancer had spread to both her breastbone and spine.
“We never knew, it just makes everything more real,” said Brandi Castle, Rebecca’s younger sister. “I cry all the time but I never see it from her. I’m terrified that my nieces may not remember their mother.”
While Dora is still too young to fully understand what is happening with her mother, she still realizes that something isn’t right as she has gone from the once talkative and smiling four year old to being quite and serious. It wasn’t until a visit from Mrs. Claus that attention was brought to Dora’s situation, Mrs. Claus learned of the news and decided to do something to help make this Christmas a little brighter.
With the help and support of the community many toys, clothes, and other items were donated as presents for the Colvin children to open for Christmas.
“This would have been the worse Christmas yet,” said Castle. “As they spend most of the money traveling back and forth to doctor appointments.”
The gifts given to Dora, her younger sister Samantha and older brother John brightened up the room Friday evening as they received far more than toys and clothes but the gift love and support as well.
“I just want to thank everyone that came out today,” said Rebecca. “There’s nothing I can say or do to show the gratitude that I have for everyone.”
While Rebecca knows that there is a fight ahead of her, as her mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer in the past and has now been in remission for five years, she is determined to not give up and plans to keep fighting.
For Rebecca the best part of this Christmas was getting to see her kids smile again.
This Christmas is sure to be a fond memory that the family will be able to look back on for years to come.


41st Annual Christmas for Kids

By Amber Wilcox
Staff Writer

The Johnson County Chamber of Commerce held their 41st annual Christmas for the Kids on Saturday, Dec 17.
The event, held at the Big Sandy Superstore building, allowed kids to come and enjoy a day full of Christmas spirit as children had the opportunity to have their faces painted or a balloon animal made before making their way to see Santa.
All children between the ages of newborn to 12 years old were able to receive a present after visiting Santa.
Those who came to the event also had the opportunity to enjoy some food as well, before heading back home with their Christmas gift in hand.



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