Our region has challenges, from the economic decline of the coal industry, to the opioid epidemic, there’s work to do in our communities. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll hear from several people who are trying to reinvigorate our region with opportunities for change. We’ll also hear from some younger voices in Appalachian, North Carolina about growing up in the mountains.

Newly Appointed ARC Co-Chair Lays Out Vision for the Region
We’ll start this episode with someone who is now charged with helping to give Appalachia an economic boost. President Donald Trump recently appointed a new federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, or ARC. Tim Thomas spent the past three years working for U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell out of Kentucky. Inside Appalachia host Jessica Lilly spoke with the newly appointed ARC leader to find out what vision he sees for our region, and what approaches he plans to try that may be different from things the federal government has tried in years past.

Coal Country Students Working For a Power Switch
The coal industry’s decline is felt in many school districts across coal country. Tax revenue from mining has decreased, along with the local economy, while rising electricity rates make it a struggle to keep schools open. But as Benny Becker reports, there’s no shortage of students who are trying to create a new energy future.

What Teacher Protests Portend For Schools, Labor & Elections
Recent demonstrations in Arizona were just the latest in a series of walkouts, protests and pickets by teachers in four states from West Virginia to Oklahoma to Kentucky. Glynis Board reports on what the unrest among teachers could mean for schools, for labor, and for upcoming elections.

Student from Appalachian North Carolina who studied with the PAGE program
Photo by Mikalah Creasman.

Kids in North Carolina Share What it’s Like to Live in Appalachia
In this episode we’ll also hear the voices of several students sharing personal stories about growing up in the mountains of rural North Carolina.

The pieces were crafted during a summer program of the Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education (PAGE) for girls in grades 6 through 9. The youth in the program worked with facilitators to write, edit, and voice “digital stories” that say something about their lives. In this episode we’ll hear from Wrenn Treadway, Preslea Harwood, Megan Anderson, Katlyn Lewis, and Skyler Shelton.

These students wrote, voiced, and produced their own stories as part of a summer project with a group called PAGE. It’s part of a series called Postcards from Madison County, which originally aired on WUNC.

Kids in Charleston play soccer at the 25th annual Healthy Kids Day while volunteers from the WV State football team supervise on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
Photo by Kara Lofton, WVPB.

 Community Celebrates Healthy Kids Day
The small community of Montgomery, West Virginia, in Kanawha and Fayette Counties, used to be home to West Virginia University Institute of Technology, or WVU Tech. But the school moved to Beckley last year. Now, people in Montgomery are wondering how this change may affect the town’s economic future. But in the midst of these challenges, there is a bright spot. A new YMCA gym has opened there for families. The gym hosted an event recently, called Healthy Kids Day, aimed at teaching kids and families how to eat well and stay active through the summer months.

Puppy Pilates
West Virginia University students had an unusual way of decompressing during finals week this semester. Have you ever heard of Puppy Pilates? Recently, as WVU students were preparing for finals, the school’s student health center hosted a Puppy Pilates class aimed at de-stressing students before exams.

Photo by Kara Lofton/WVPB

We’ll also hear a piece that StoryCorps recorded a few years ago when they were in Morgantown, West Virginia. Gene Kendzior told his daughter, Jennifer, about her grandfather, who died working in a coal mine in 1967.

Kendzior told his daugther that coal mining “was a hard, dirty job. And everyone who worked there suffered from it. And most of the people went right from high school to the coal mine.”

She asked him to talk about his father. “It was a very hard life for him. I’m sure it was. And he died in a coal mine as so many others have. And to think that as I sit here I’m older than he was when he died. And just think how nice it would be to have your father to talk to. That was a great loss.”

Shortly after recording this interview for Father’s Day, Gene Kendzior passed away.

Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy ToddLiz McCormick edited this episode. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can e-mail us at[email protected].

This article was originally published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.