I teach writing to 11th and 12th graders in West Virginia. To be great writers I believe that first we must really understand who we are and the place from which we have come. In order to foster this sense of place, we spend the first weeks of class exploring the single stories of Appalachia. Appalachia is a complex, diverse, beautiful and at times, polarizing region, and most often the young people in our region only hear one thing about us, the negative single story perpetuated by stereotypes in pop culture. For the first weeks of class, we debunk these stereotypes by studying the multifaceted writing of the region, and the many activists and organizations working to strengthen our region and elevate the many voices of Appalachia. Last year, we presented what we had learned at the National Appalachian Studies Conference at Virginia Tech University.
You can read more about that amazing trip HERE.
Our presentation was an anomaly at this conference. No one is doing this kind of work with high school students in the region of Appalachia, and our presentation was so well received that these students have been invited back as key note speakers at this year’s conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is an incredible honor—to be a teenager highlighted as a keynote speaker at a major, national, academic conference, and my students will have not just an opportunity to present, but to be active participants in a major academic conference focusing on their region and it’s problems and solutions. Through this life changing opportunity, they will learn about their home, their region, the people in it, and most importantly themselves.
Students will not only be planning and organizing the Friday night plenary session of this conference, they will be active participants during the 3 days of sessions, writer presentations, and panel discussion. They will be engaging in a conversation about the literature, environment, history, and culture of our region with professionals, academics, scientists, published writers, and historians. Through this experience my students will have the opportunity to grow as learners, but also as leaders. Appalachia is in desperate need of energetic, young leaders and community organizers, and this conference will give my students the opportunity to fill these roles. This opportunity has the potential to change for the better not just my students, but the state and region as well.
In addition to the possible world changing implications of giving young West Virginians this opportunity, my students will also graduate with the phrase “key note speaker at a national academic conference” on their resumes and transcripts. They will be able to take what they’ve learned about public speaking, leading, and activism and apply it their college studies.
This trip is not without some costs. The students will have conference registration and meal fees. The conference is providing an honorarium to offset the cost of the lodging, but our charter bus is significant. We must raise $5,500 dollars to cover the bus and the driver's lodging during out stay.
We will be doing some fundraising. Our first fundraiser is December 4, 2017 at Chipotle! Please come out and support our trip!
And if you or your business would like to sponsor this learning opportunity, we will gladly add your name or your business name to the back of our conference t-shirts! To connect with me to donate or sponsor you can reach me at:
499 Campus Dr.
Martinsburg, WV 25403
The best kinds of learning often happens outside the classroom. Please consider helping make this experience possible for my students.
Hope to hear from you!