Over the summer I was able to participate in the Entrepreneurship for the Public Good Institute in which we learned about entrepreneurial skills and about the Appalachian area.
Working at the Office of Sustainability and getting the chance to learn about the environmental problems within Appalachia, such as the ongoing effects of the coal and fracking industry, I was able to teach my peers about some of the environmental issues the area faces. What I didn’t expect was being able to see firsthand distressed counties taking steps towards becoming more sustainable.
One of our first stops on our Appalachian tour was Mingo County or Williamson, West Virginia. Although you could tell the small town was still struggling with a depleting economy, there were a few promising signs of regrowth. Not only were new local
businesses popping up but we ran into the mayor who began to tell us about new health, food, and renewable energy initiatives the town was making. Recent solar panels had been installed on the tops of buildings, we visited the lot used for the weekly farmers market, and we visited the community garden where volunteers have spent countless hours creating a community garden within a food desert.
Visiting poor Appalachian communities and seeing the effects of a very extractive
economy really opened my eyes to the greater purpose of Berea College and The Office of Sustainability. When you serve the people in these areas by giving them an education and by showing them the benefits of sustainability as a way go back home to improve their local economy and environment, I believe we can change the direction these beautiful but distressed areas are headed in and breathe sustainable life into them again.
Written By: Kristina Anderson
Edited By: Alejandro Galeana-Salinas and Joan Pauly