LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 19, 2020) – A new book of essays by young Kentucky students seeks to inform, inspire, motivate and uplift the reader through personal cancer stories and cancer prevention initiatives.
The book, “The Cancer Crisis in Appalachia: Kentucky Students Take ACTION,” contains essays by 20 high school and five undergraduate students who are participants in the Appalachian Career Training in Oncology (ACTION) Program at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.
The state of Kentucky has more cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than any other state in the nation. A majority of these cases are concentrated in the 54 counties that constitute the Appalachian region of the commonwealth.
The student essays in the book detail the effects of cancer diagnoses and deaths on individuals, families, friends and communities. As one of three editors of the book, ACTION Program Director Nathan L. Vanderford says he felt it was important to showcase the issue of cancer in Kentucky through personal stories and not data alone.
“Statistics around cancer and its impact are important, but data does not tell the true personal toll of the disease,” Vanderford said. “Telling stories – through the eyes of youth – of how cancer impacts individuals, families, and communities was one of the major purposes for this book. Such stories are important to share because we can learn from others’ experiences and become educated around cancer risk factors and cancer prevention and control strategies.”
With the book, Vanderford wants to reach Kentuckians that have been touched by or are invested in the cancer outlook of Kentucky. Additionally, he hopes to have a reach outside of the state so that others can better understand the cancer problem in Kentucky.
“Everyone is touched by and invested in this disease so we want to reach all citizens from students, parents, extended families, teachers, researchers, health care providers, law-makers and everyone in between,” said Vanderford.
Elliott County high school student Natalie Barker is a participant in the ACTION Program and has an essay featured in the book.
“Eastern Kentucky is in a crisis. We have the highest cancer incidence and cancer mortality rates in the country,” she said. “We are not just a scary statistic. We are people, human beings just like you. We go to school. We eat dinner with our families. We have birthday parties and barbeques just like everyone else, yet our loved ones are being taken from us. We are in desperate need of help, not only from outside assistance but from inside our community as well.”
Along with Barker, the following ACTION Program participants have featured essays in the book:
- William Adams, Letcher County
- Natalie Barker, Elliott County
- Lauren K. Collett, Leslie County
- Rachel Collins, Clay County
- Andrew Davison, Rowan County
- Holly Dickens, Rowan County
- Susanna Goggans, Johnson County
- Zachary Hall, Letcher County
- Abigail Isaacs, Garrard County
- Shahid Jabbar, Bath County
- Julie Kiser, Letcher County
- Kinley Lewis, Elliott County
- Nolan Marcum, Carter County
- Matthew Melton, Powell County
- Alyviah Newby, Russel County
- Katelyn Nigro, Whitley County
- Solomon Patton, Carter County
- Brianna Reyes, Carter County
- Megan Schlosser, Pulaski County
- Kaitlin Schumaker, Laurel County
- Spencer Shelton, Whitley County
- Haleigh Thompson, Lawrence County
- Ethan Tiller, Carter County
- Carrigan Wasilchenko, Powell County
- Emory Wilds, Pulaski County
The book is currently available for presale on Amazon and will be available April 7. According to Vanderford the book will also be available through the University Press of Kentucky, Barnes & Noble, Joseph-Beth Booksellers as well as on other platforms. All the proceeds will help fund similar community outreach and education projects conducted by the ACTION Program.
In addition to Vanderford, author and student at the University of Kentucky Lauren Hudson and ACTION Program Coordinator Chris Prichard served as editors of the book. The book is being published by the University Press of Kentucky.
The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center established the ACTION Program in 2016. It offers Appalachian Kentucky high school and undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Kentucky the opportunity to gain cancer research, clinical, outreach and education experiences that will enrich their interest in pursuing a cancer-focused career.
“Students in the ACTION Program are having outstanding outcomes, including co-authoring peer-reviewed research articles, presenting their research at local, regional and national/international cancer conferences, conducting impactful outreach activities, and pursuing the next level of their educational careers,” said Vanderford. “The program is having a transformational impact on students’ career trajectories and it is empowering them to be change agents in their communities.”
Undergraduate applications for the ACTION Program are available now and are due on April 1. Interviews for those applicants will take place in April and candidates will be notified of admission decisions by April 30. High school applications are available now and are due on July 1, 2020. Candidates will be notified of admission decisions by August 21.
Eligible students can apply for the ACTION Program here.