A publication of Appalachian Voices

A publication of Appalachian Voices

Across Appalachia

Build-It-Up! Prepares Young Leaders

By Kate Cahow

Build-It-Up participants build a chicken coop in Rock Creek, W.Va. Photo by Joe Gorman

Tessa Gore’s passion for creating positive change in the Appalachian region was sparked during her time with Build-It-Up West Virginia.

“My first summer, we traveled to several mountaintop removal sites, and I witnessed the impact on the environment and surrounding communities,” says Gore, a student at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky. “That’s when I became an environmental activist. Build-It-Up opened my eyes to grassroots organization and mobilization, and showed me one person can definitely make a difference.” The Ohio native is using her experiences to establish a Build-It-Up program in southeast Ohio.

Build-It-Up West Virginia and sister chapters in Tennessee and Virginia engage participants in service-learning projects focused on healthy, sustainable and locally-based economies. Through community partnerships, they have planted gardens in lower-income neighborhoods, hosted workshops on sustainable food production and preservation, and shadowed local leaders to learn about water-testing standards and local mine safety rules and legislation.

“Appalachian youth are strong leaders,” says Johanna de Graffenreid, co-coordinator with Build-It-Up West Virginia. “They’ve experienced the impacts of the coal mono-economy, and through Build-It-Up they’re learning to build solutions.”

For Joe Gorman, program coordinator with Build-It-Up West Virginia, the most gratifying part of his work is witnessing the personal growth of alumni. “It’s exciting when participants grasp a deeper understanding of what’s at risk in their communities, and then work to change it,” he says.

Build-It-Up is part of a national network of grassroots youth organizations called Grand Aspirations. The Virginia and Tennessee chapters are starting this summer, and this fall the West Virginia chapter is transitioning to a year-round program with West Virginia State University.

Build-It-Up! in Appalachia

East Tennessee: zval33.wix.com/builditupetn
Virginia: granaspirations.org/sw-va.201/
West Virginia: facebook.com/builditup.wv
Age: 13-18 (high school and college undergraduates)
Dates: June to August- specific dates TBA
Cost: Free
Contact: Joe Forman, program coordinator, Build-It-Up West Virginia (for all three programs)
Phone number: (703)307-4011 or (304)518-0248
Registration form: bit.ly/12f6BJE

Click the picture to find out more information about environmental summer camps in 2013.

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