I have finished this draft and made a few modifications. Input is still greatly requested.
Eastern Kentucky is perhaps the most stereotyped region in the United States. We have all seen media depictions of the toothless deadbeat with no shoes and a baby in each arm; this image is further propagated by national news stations' uncanny knack of interviewing only individuals who play to this stereotype when covering a news event in the region. I have witnessed this phenomena throughout my life, and I can say with certainty that the common conceptions of eastern Kentucky are inaccurate in many regards. I am from a very poor town, one in which the majority of its citizens have grown up merely scraping by because that is all they have ever known. Job opportunity is scarce, and the jobs that are considered "higher-end" are those at the houseboat factories that pay $16 an hour; many of the students I graduated high school with three years ago are currently working such jobs and will continue to for the rest of their lives. However there not everyone settles for the first satisfactory option; some people, such as myself, have chosen to pursue college in hopes of bettering their situations. When you are from an area with little opportunity, there are two paths you can take: you can either fall victim to the low expectations that surround you, or you can overcome them. I made the decision long ago to make of myself all that I am capable of. I am not ashamed of my heritage; my roots are grounded deep, and, while I may leave my hometown in rural Kentucky, the values I have been instilled with will never leave me.
There is a pervading mentality that looms over the mindset of so many people from my region. This mentality is a product of environment; people grow up feeling like they are relegated to settling, and that to just “get by” is a desirable outcome. I have contended with the internal battle of contentment all of my life, and, by seeing others blindly accept the hand they feel fate has dealt them, I found myself determined to achieve the most I am capable of. My priorities have always been made in a way which will lay the foundation of a promising future, even if the consequences include making sacrifices now. Since the age of sixteen, I have always held a job in addition to my studies and, even the 18-hours-a-week academic semesters I have become accustomed to during college have been accompanied with anywhere from 25 to 30 hours a week working a part-time job. While my transcript reflects that I have excelled academically, it does not depict the long days and often longer nights that have been required to obtain these results. The work ethic I have consistently displayed can only be developed through experience; I relish a challenge because without one it is impossible to truly appreciate the completion of a goal.
I have spoken about some of the things I have done; however, one of the things I am proudest of regards something I haven't done. Throughout my college career and in the midst of high aspirations, I have made it a point to never forget my roots. In the pursuance of a goal, it is all too common that we forget what made us set the goal in the first place. I am acquainted with an individual who, at a young age, taught themselves to drop their Southern accent by mimicking the more widespread dialect often heard on television. It is a noble pursuit for someone to attempt to better their circumstances; however, I believe that it is a tragic consquence when, by trying to better ourselves, we change into a new person. It is true that when I speak I stretch my vowels out a little bit, and I sometimes find myself having to repeat myself when I am away from home. Instead of being ashamed of my eastern Kentucky accent, however, I speak it with pride; where I have come from has played a pivotol and undeniable part in who I have become. I was raised to be proud in what I have, and I will never deny my heritage.
When I walk the stage at commencement in December, I will become the first member of my family to do so. I will have earned a four-year degree in three-and-a-half years, all the while maintaining a rigorous academic course load and an equally time-consuming work load; still, I feel that if I stop at what I have achieved thus far, I will fall victim to the very mentality I have worked so hard to avoid. I have been blessed with an opportunity that many others will never know; to pursue law school and become an attorney is my dream, and I believe that my potential is limitless. However, whatever I go on to achieve, part of me will always remain the same. I am a Southerner at heart, and my slow way of speaking doesn't not reflect a slow way of thinking. I was raised in the hills of rural eastern Kentucky, and I am proud of that fact.