There’s something special about Johnson County’s kids. 

Even in just this one edition of The Paintsville Herald, you can read about kids from Paintsville Independent being honored for bringing home state and regional baseball titles, and kids from Johnson County schools earning international accolades and championships for their problem-solving skills and projects.

This just marks the latest chapter in a very long story of humble Johnson County, Kentucky, producing world-class talents. 

For the problem solvers, the best part of the story lies in their aim and their motives. These kids worked all year long on projects with one goal: Making the community a better place. For foster children going into new homes, or children in homes without a bed of their own, or soon-to-be mothers grappling with addiction, or someone dealing with homelessness, these young problem solvers have made a choice to find solutions. They volunteered their time. They worked to raise the necessary money. 

These are young people who decided that “someday” was not soon enough and the “someone” needed to be them. They took on the responsibility, and these international titles coming home to Johnson County are merely the icing on the cake — a recognition that their hours were well spent. Gratitude is also owed to the coaches, teachers, parents and everyone else who helped facilitate these projects.

What’s next for our next generation?

These kids will grow up and hopefully continue their education. Their drive to make the world a better place will continue to blossom. It is our sincere hope that they will continue to live and work here in Eastern Kentucky, because we badly need innovators and hard workers to turn the page and revitalize our region. 

Can we ask them to stay here? To deserve these kids, we need to be able to provide them with opportunities right here at home, with good-paying jobs, affordable homes and safe streets.

It is up to our local leaders of today to help shape this area so that staying close to home is an attractive option to these leaders of tomorrow, who could literally go and succeed anywhere in the world. But here we are, with a tenuously recovering economy saddled by an ongoing addiction epidemic. 

How do we turn it around? Hard to say, but asking these kids to the table to be a part of that conversation — inviting them to help tell us what we need to do to make Eastern Kentucky a place to stay, live and work — is an important first step. We need real solutions to these big problems, and fortunately, we have some students who are proven to be the best in the world at problem solving.

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