STAY Project Encourages Youth To Help Revitalize Appalachian Communities
Green Bank, WV – Janney Lockman is just the kind of person you want to see in a rural area – young, bright and eager to revitalize the community she calls home. And the Pocahontas County HS grad wants to encourage others to do the same; one way she’s doing that is through the STAY project.
“There are two things I usually tell people” says Lockman. “First of all that the STAY project is a network of young people from Appalachia who want to stay in their home communities, and that’s kind of the simple version. But the STAY project is about more than just that – it’s really about connecting a bunch of young people who have a lot of ideas for things that they want to do in their communities or businesses that they want to start; if they want to start a farm, be involved in local politics, it’s really a way for them to connect on the commonalities that are present all over Appalachia.”
She says they’ll also learn such things as the art of grant writing and how to go about setting up a meeting with your congressman. The idea for the STAY project was sparked during a youth engagement session during a 2007 Appalachian Studies conference. Many of those in attendance wanted to be more involved in their communities but didn’t know how to go about it.
“So High Rocks, the Highlander Center in Tennessee, and the Appalachian Media Institute, a part of Appalshop in Kentucky, those three organizations kind of got together, and youth from those organizations met and brainstormed and talked about what kind of things they really wanted to see and what things would be helpful for them and from that the STAY project was formed.”
Like many high school graduates from a rural county, Lockman is currently studying out of state pursuing a degree in Psychology at Oberlin College in Ohio. She says she realizes that not all those in the STAY project will come back to their home communities. But she says they try to offer incentives and support to those who do want to return.
“Most people, they have family ties, and that’s something I feel like especially in Appalachia is really, really important” says Lockman. “I feel like a lot of people do want to stay, but they’re just not sure how, so our incentives are kind of reminding them that there are other people who are doing things; starting businesses in their hometowns, getting jobs at established locations. Kind of reminding people that it’s possible and helping people get the skills that they need so they can stay.”
She says it’s also critical to get support from the community.
“We like to say that the STAY project is what you want it to be” she says “so part of it is definitely the resources. But another part of it is making sure that organizations like the Pocahontas Times or High Rocks have young people in positions of leadership that are working for them or are on their board. People will have a lot of young interns, but when it comes to actually getting their staff, there’s a large age gap kind of all over the region, so a part of it is kind of closing that leadership gap.”
You can find out more about this organization at their website, www.thestayproject.org. You can also join Lockman and others for a potluck jam at the High Rocks campground in Millpoint on Saturday, July 23 at 6pm. Bring a dish to share, an instrument to play or your dancing shoes, but most of all your ideas to help make the STAY project a success.