March 16, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Wealth & Poverty Students ‘Had Our Eyes Opened to Both Poverty and Character of Region’

Jonathan Leal of Nelsonville campus of ACEnet explains his food business to the Wealth and Poverty students (photo by Dr Terman).

Jonathan Leal of Nelsonville campus of ACEnet explains his food business to the Wealth and Poverty students (photo by Dr Terman).

The Wealth and Poverty theme’s annual spring field trip took students to three Appalachian towns—Rendville, New Straitsville, and Nelsonville—on Saturday, March 12.

Last Spring Dr. Barry Tadlock of Political Science led the theme’s first field trip to New Straitsville and Haydenville, and this time Dr. Rachel Terman, Assistant Professor of Sociology, joined him to highlight Appalachian Ohio’s coal mining towns.

The coal industry has been a distinctive feature of Central Appalachia since the late 1800s. After several boom-and-bust cycles in Appalachian Ohio’s coal industry, the industry shrank in scale and left behind an assortment of so-called company towns. Today residents of these small towns continue to deal with the impacts of the decline of coal mining as they work to maintain their communities and remember their history.

A total of 72 students from several Wealth and Poverty courses, including CAS 1300 Theme in Action, POLS 3060 Politics of Appalachia, SOC 3090 Sociology of Appalachia, and T3 4400 Seminar in Wealth and Poverty, visited New Straitsville and Rendville, both in Perry County, to obtain firsthand exposure to company towns.  The third stop of the trip was the Nelsonville campus of ACEnet (Appalachian Center for Economic Networks) to learn about how the organization has helped in terms of business incubation, venture loans, and specialty food production.

‘Our Eyes Opened to Both the Poverty and Character of the Region’

“As someone who has lived in Appalachia for my entire life, I am no stranger to old coal mining towns and the poverty that is associated with them,” said Sociology major Hannah Raines, who is taking the Sociology of Appalachia course this semester. “Though it was clear that the areas we visited had been plagued by economic downfall, the people we met had a connection to their home that is to be admired. I was truly inspired by the love these communities had for their history.”

“In New Straitsville, starry eyed locals shared with us their town’s stories of the labor struggles of their coal miners and enthralling tales of creating moonshine in secrecy during the days of prohibition,” wrote Tim Cichanowicz, Political Science major, in his review essay. “Everything that we had learned from the residents of this humble town in the corner of southeast Ohio had reinforced what we had learned about this region’s history in our class as well. As our bus rumbled along the hilly roads of southeast Ohio, we also had our eyes opened to both the poverty and character of the region as well.”

The Appalachian field trip is part of the Wealth and Poverty theme’s efforts to increase student engagement with surrounding communities in Appalachia.

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