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Education, Job Training and A Future -- Pointing A Path Forward for Young People in W.Va.

Carpentry student at the Fayette Institute of Technology in Oak Hill, W.Va.
Courtesy Fayette Institute of Technology
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Carpentry student at the Fayette Institute of Technology in Oak Hill, W.Va.

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we talk with students, educators, life coaches and psychologists about what can help more young people stay in school and get trained so they can get jobs. And -- stay in Appalachia.

We meet Sharell Harmon, who works for a nonprofit called Youth Build, training young people with hands-on skills, like carpentry and landscaping, that will help them to find meaningful work. Harmon was a participant in the program seven years ago. “I went from being homeless, a college dropout,” Harmon recalled. “And now I'm a college graduate. And, I'm going to buy my first house this year.”

Communities across Appalachia are seeing a growing number of young people having a tough time. They aren’t in school, don’t hold a job — and they’re having trouble feeling optimistic about what the future holds. But some of them are finding ways to break out of that pattern. This week, we’ll hear from some of these young people who have found a way forward and some hope.

We’ll also meet people who are working to help. “You don't ‘fix’ anything,” said child psychologist Colleen Moran, who works in Charleston, West Virginia. “You support, you encourage, you guide. We don’t fix because these people aren't broken.”

We’ll also hear from TJ Ellison, who graduated from Fayette Institute of Technology in 2020. During his senior year, he worked with our Inside Appalachia team to learn radio storytelling. Ellison decided to focus on his own experience, and set out to learn more about how students and teachers in his community feel about career and technical education.

This episode was largely possible thanks to Kyle Vass and Trey Key with the Us & Them podcast. Us & Them is supported with grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the West Virginia Humanities Council, and the CRC Foundation. The reporting in this episode was supported with a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

 

Inside Appalachia’s theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Jake Sheppes, Michael Lipton, Tristram Lozaw and Marisa Anderson.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Kelley Libby is our editor.

Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. Stay up to date on our latest stories, and get behind the scenes stories from our production crew by subscribing to the Inside Appalachia newsletter.

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Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.