What's it Like to Be Young in Appalachia?

Jul 24, 2015

It can be pretty tough to be a young person in Appalachia. There’s a lot of love for our region in the younger generation, too. So some younger people are making their own opportunities. Hear from people in their teens and 20s who are creating art and music here and listen to their ideas and dreams for Appalachia.

Dolly Parton on Getting Dirty

Dolly Parton is one of the most celebrated stars of Appalachia. In this vintage interview with Dolly, you’ll hear some of her memories of growing up in the Appalachian mountains of Eastern Tennessee. In this story from the PBS series and podcast, Blank on Blank, Larry Grobel recorded this interview for a profile that ran in Playboy. Dolly was in her early 30s, rocketing to fame. Dolly talks about her love for makeup and growing up with 11 siblings in Tennessee. The little ones often peed on her at night. Dolly talks about her mama's encouragement to embrace who she was.

Chestnut Ridge
Credit Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Appalachian Youth Speak on Life in the Coalfields

When a group of politicians and White House officials traveled to Pikeville, Kentucky to hold a summit about Appalachia’s future and didn’t invite young people in the area to participate, they decided to organize their own event. It’s called “It’s Good 2 be Young in the Mountains.” To get the conversation started, we wanted to hear from some of the organizers, and hear what they love, and what they don’t love, about living in Appalachia. Destiny Caldwell of WMMT talked with some young folks from Eastern Kentucky who are helping to organize the event.

"It's Good 2 be Young in the Mountains" will take place August 13-16 in Harlan, Kentucky. Even if you’re not “young”, that is, in your teens, 20s, or 30s, the conference is open to all ages of people who want to support young people throughout Appalachia.

Annie Zomaya is a 19-year-old Cumberland native and a student at Eastern Kentucky University.
Credit Destiny Caldwell

Lunch Buses Hit the Streets in Jefferson County

The summer break from school can be really tough for those people struggling to feed their families. Summer lunch programs across the country try to help feed those children, but lots of children still go without because they can’t get to the school to eat. A program called Lunch Buses started up this summer in Jefferson County, West Virginia bringing meals to children and seniors at designated locations. At the launch of the program back in June, West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Liz McCormick caught up with the lunch bus. The first day, things didn’t quite go as planned.

Credit Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Mobile Summer Meals Hazard
This year the Perry County school district in Eastern Kentucky sent its summer lunch program on the road. Renieca Harris is the head cook at AB Combs Elementary School in Hazard, Kentucky. Every weekday, Harris loads hundreds of meals into a bright van and delivers the food to low income children throughout Perry County. Roxy Todd went along with Harris on one of her daily lunch routes to see the food truck in action.

Credit Roxy Todd

What’s in a Name?

Sometimes, towns get their names from animals, like a few we’ve explored, Bugtussle, Kentucky and Duck, West Virginia. So, since today we heard from Dolly Parton, who was born in Tennessee, we wanted to feature a town from Dolly’s home state. So, can you guess what town in Tennessee got its name from a flying flock of geese? Listen to this week’s episode to hear Vonda Dixon, a genealogist at the Smith County Public Library in Carthage, Tennessee, explain.

If you know of a place in Appalachia with an interesting sound or mysterious folklore behind it, send us a tweet @InAppalachia #WhatsinaName.

Young Elkins Musicians Help Revive Old Time Music

Over in Elkins, West Virginia, it was an old-timer who helped young folks make their own fun with music. The musical string band, called The Elm Street Alleycats of Elkins, lost their mentor and bass player Gene Boyer in 2013. Since then, the group’s been working to make the old tunes he taught them, better. They’ve also been learning newer, contemporary music of their own.  Roxy Todd has this story, which originally aired last summer .

WVPB Host and Composer Matt Jackfert on Performance Today

This young West Virginia composer’s work was recently featured on NPR’s Performance Today. Matt Jackfert is the in house composer at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Back in 2012, Jackfert composed a symphonic work titled "Vandalia.” This performance by the West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra was recorded at the State Opera House in Banska Bystrica Slovakia, which is the sister city of Charleston, West Virginia.  West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Beth Vorhees sat down with Matt recently to talk about his work.

Mountain Music Concert Series Offers Escape from Summer Heat

The Mountain Music Concert Series at Chestnut Ridge Park is a series of music events that welcome kids, families, and people of all ages. It’s held in the mountains outside Morgantown, West Virginia. Jesse Wright with West Virginia Public Broadcasting takes us to the Chestnut Ridge venue, where The Hillbilly Gypsies were playing on a recent Saturday night.

What do you think?

Is it good to be young in Appalachia? What are your main worries for folks today who are young adults?  Where is your favorite music venue? Summer is almost over and we want to hear how you plan to spend the next few weeks. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly.

Host Jessica Lilly as a teenager, on the left, wearing a pretty awesome smiley face shirt. Her sister Erica is on the right.
Credit Jessica Lilly

Music in today’s show was also provided by Dolly Parton, Matt Jackfert, The Hillbilly Gypsies, the Elm Street Alleycats, Ben Townsend, and Dave Bing as heard on Mountain Stage. Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.