Keeping Young People Here
9:16 am
Wed April 30, 2014

Young West Virginians Say There's a Negative Perception of Those Who Stay In the State

Jocelyn and Matt Crawford say West Virginians who choose to stay in the state often have to justify why to those that don't.
Credit Jocelyn and Matt Crawford

Editor's Note: Today we continue our series on how to keep young people in West Virginia. Yesterday, we looked at the struggle many people go through to find work in the state in their chosen fields. Today we examine the stereotypes young West Virginians who choose to stay in the state face from those on the outside.

With the state expected to lose nearly 20 thousand people over the next 15 years, many are trying to figure out how to entice young people to stay in West Virginia in the hopes of reversing that trend. Some young people want to stay; others don’t for many reasons, like finding work. But many young people agree there’s a perception amongst young West Virginians that people have to leave, not just to find work, but to simply succeed.

Logan Spears, a 25 years old bartender, works at the Dancing Fig on High Street, in Morgantown.

Spears says in his group of friends, there’s a bias against those that stay in West Virginia, primarily because of compensation.

"Most of the people that stay in the state are looked down upon by the others. 'Oh, I guess he didn’t as good a job as I did'," Spears said.

"I think one of the big things is the pay that you get from it, it kind of goes on the price of living."

But it’s not just about money; it’s also about attitude.

Jocelyn and Matt Crawford live in Charleston, and have been married since 2012.

"It seems to be that people who were born and raised in West Virginia, if you choose to stick around, the people who have left to go to other places, they have sort of made it and you have not, even if you’ve been doing great things with your life," said Jocelyn Crawford.

"It seems like a lot of the people that we know who have gone to school in West Virginia are looking to leave, or feel like they are stuck in a rut, even if they have a good job or are successful in other ways," Matt Crawford said.

The Crawfords, believe national media coverage of West Virginia, which they say tends to be negative, plays a role.

"Whenever there’s a study out and it has West Virginia at the bottom of something good or the top of something bad, people talk about it a lot. It seems like it’s almost been ingrained in people our age, that we’re the fattest state. Or the dumbest state, and you can’t succeed if you’re here," said Matt Crawford.

Not Buying It

The Crawfords aren’t buying that assessment. And they’re not alone.

Mike Jones was raised on a tobacco farm in Virginia. He moved to West Virginia for college, met the woman who would become his wife, and decided to stay. He now lives in Charleston and works at a small business in Montgomery.

He says anyone can find something fun to do in West Virginia. And he says it’s the true mountainous beauty of the state that keeps people here.

"I had never been rock climbing before until I went to New River Gorge. Just several experiences that I wouldn’t have had in other parts of the country," Jones said.

"If people look up from their screens they will realize there’s plenty going on around them and not everything is going on away from them. I’ve experienced several people that will not be in the moment. They would rather be somewhere else. If that attitude doesn’t change, then they are not going to experience happiness."