Thursday, June 30, 2016

This One Got a Job

I finished college a few couple of months ago, and I'm glad to say that I got a job (sorta)! I formally accepted a year of service (renewable for a second year) with AmeriCorps, a group similar to Peace Corps. I will be living and working in Thomas, West Virginia. It's a small town with about 600 residents, surrounded by national forest.

 If you're curious, I'll answer some questions I've gotten

"So what will you be doing?"

I'll be working with a few different organizations in the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, including Tucker County Development Authority, Tucker County Commission, and New Historic Thomas. These organizations work on sustainable economic and community development throughout the county. New Historic Thomas works specifically in the city of Thomas, doing revitalization and preservation of the community's history, cultural heritage, and resources. I will be helping these organizations, but the specific possibilities for what I will do remain open. I could be helping recruit local artists to do murals, working on the trails, speaking with folks at the legislature, and even keeping a blog.

This video was created by one of the organizations I'll be working with:

"Wait, didn't you get an English degree?"

What most people don't realize is that English majors can do anything and everything! My degree has given me a strong foundation in written communication as well as critical thinking skills. I've also gotten experience teaching, doing presentations at conferences, speaking publicly as a tour guide and in meetings, and recruiting volunteers--not to mention my experience in general badassery. Jokes aside, a B.A. in English can go far. 

"Why don't you want to teach or stay in academia?"

When I started my degree, all I knew was that I loved to read and write. After studying and having an assistantship with the department, I realized that academia was not the place for me. I like being outdoors, for one. However, my main reasons are as follows: I'm not a fan of the structure of academia, which has remained virtually the same since the Middle Ages. This makes it impossible to change, which is astounding considering the amount of self-proclaimed "progressives" in the field. I don't like how separate (ivory tower, even) it is from the broader community. I also realized that it's become highly business-driven, which doesn't seem to fit well with academic work, which takes time and spontaneity. 

I also got experience teaching a variety of age groups, and it's safe to say that it's not the career for me...(although I do enjoy tutoring, which is quite different). 

I know I will continue to write, and I will try to publish. I also know that I have a passion for community work and public speaking. I'm contemplating going into a sustainability-related field in the future, and this position seemed to be a wonderful fit that would give experience and valuable skills. 

"Why would you want to live in West Virginia?"

West Virginia and the Appalachian region in general have been struggling with some significant issues. Mountaintop removal has been cutting the tops off of their beautiful mountains, destroying ecosystems and dumping the debris into streams and rivers, contaminating the water. The region's also seen the clear cutting of trees and strip mining, which obviously harm their natural resources. The mining industries that employed many were not usually Appalachian-owned, so the money didn't stay in the region. Additionally, many of the towns, including Thomas, suffered after the coal mines left. Appalachia has some of the most extreme poverty in the nation. To add insult to injury, there is an unfortunate "ignorant hillbilly" stereotype (think Deliverance) that hovers over the region and denies that any culture or history emerges from the place. I've talked with folks who have actually said that "there's no culture where you are going." 

Actually, though, there's plenty of culture! They have folk art and music, hymns, Bluegrass, storytelling, blood feuds, and a lot of passionate people who love their land and will fight to protect it. There's also a lot of natural beauty here with many different micro-climates, rock formations, and waterfalls, so a lot of people are into hiking, mountain biking, and skiing. I'm really looking forward to living in this place.

A video about Tucker County: 

Feel free to ask any questions!