Appalachian Coal Country Team
The Appalachian Coal Country Team’s OSM/VISTA Spring Training
ONE TEAM, ONE GOAL:
The Appalachian Coal Country Team 2013 Spring Training at Hawks Nest State Park in Ansted, WV.
On March 26, 2013, 28 OSM volunteers traveled from six states for the Appalachian Coal Country Team (ACCT)’s bi-annual team training themed, “One Team, One Goal,” at Hawks Nest State Park in West Virginia. Since 2002, the OSM/VISTA Teams, through a partnership between OSM and AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), have been working in mining communities to address the environmental and economic needs throughout nine states in the East and West.
OSM Division of Reclamation Support Chief Al Whitehouse praised OSM/VISTAs for their service
Several significant proponents of the OSM/VISTA Teams helped kick off the training. Mayor Pete Hobbs welcomed the group to the town of Ansted, West Virginia, and thanked the OSM/VISTAs for their successes in transforming and alleviating environmental degradation in some of America’s most impoverished communities. OSM Chief of Reclamation Support Al Whitehouse urged OSM/VISTAs to continue building capacity in communities, especially when financial resources are uncertain. OSM Program Analyst Dr. T Allan Comp, founder and coordinator of the OSM/VISTA Teams, and ACCT Team Director April Trent engaged in a discussion with attendees regarding the potential impacts of the sequester—the across-the-board cuts to government spending that took effect on March 1, 2013—for the Teams.
Assistant Professor Peter Butler from Davis College of Landscape Architecture at West Virginia University informed volunteers about an opportunity to further their higher education goals through a pilot OSM/VISTA Masters Program that will be offered at WVU. Similar to the Peace Corps Masters Program, accepted students have the chance to receive two years of field experience and a master’s degree from an accredited university at an affordable cost.
OSM/VISTAs serving throughout Appalachia gather in Ansted, WV to engage in collaboration and discussion workshops
OSM/VISTAs were divided into groups based on the area of focus for their project: economic development, environmental stewardship, and healthy futures. Interactive workshops on community development, grant writing, and volunteerism were tailored to practically address each group’s focus. Attendees shared their successes and collaborated to tackle a variety of obstacles they had encountered in their communities. In addition to the workshops, OSM/VISTAs received professional development in public speaking, resume writing, and leaving a legacy in the organization.
Other events throughout the three-day training allowed participants to network and share their best practices from the field. On the first night, the Ansted Baptist Church and Mayor Hobbs hosted an evening of contra-dancing and a live band composed of talented OSM/VISTAs. Participants engaged in a Q&A panel discussion with three OSM/VISTA alumni on the second day of training.
Their unique experiences with the OSM/VISTA Teams equipped them with beneficial skills and contacts to advance their professional career paths in private, non-profit, and government institutions. Attendees gathered around a campfire on the last night of training to share more highlights from the field and meet other OSM/VISTAs working on similar projects.
ACCT Team Director April Trent reviewed the successes from FY2012:
- Leveraged $305,391 in in-kind resources
- Raised $128,359 in cash resources
- Developed $760,752 in grant funding
- Garnered 71,129 hours of service from 4,659 community volunteers
- Removed 149,737 pounds of trash from public lands
- Planted 37,759 trees on 165 acres of land
- Facilitated 23 opportunities for access to locally sourced food
DOI Office of Youth, Partnerships & Service Director Michael Gale wrapped up the 2013 Spring Training with words of encouragement and praise for the transforming work of each OSM/VISTA within their respective communities
During his closing speech of the ACCT Spring Training, DOI Office of Youth, Partnerships & Service Director Michael Gale shared his thoughts about the remarkable work each OSM/VISTA was accomplishing. As a native West Virginian, Gale was impressed by the range of projects from revitalizing historic downtown areas to reversing the effects of acid mine drainage. He encouraged OSM/VISTAs to be patient and unrelenting in pursuit of their professional goals, a lesson learned from his own journey through various Federal agencies.
OSM/VISTAs left Hawks Nest State Park re-energized and inspired as they traveled back to their sites. Each OSM/VISTA was reminded how important and crucial his or her capacity-building work is to bring communities out of economic and environmental distress. Through strong partnerships and a strong team, the OSM/VISTAs will continue to make regional impacts and address the challenges in Appalachian coal country.
Founder and Coordinator of the OSM/VISTA Teams Dr. T Allan Comp with Appalachian Coal Country Team Director April Trent and Western Hardrock Watershed Team Director Jessica Berry
The workshops, groups, and guest speakers concluded with a charge for each OSM/VISTA to work even more fervently towards the ACCT mission to as he or she returned to his or her respective community. OSM/VISTAs wrapped up their sessions by developing action plans for the next six months and will share their successes in the coming months. The training’s “One Team, One Goal” mantra reminded each individual of the resilient support he or she can take advantage of as a member of the award-winning, nationally recognized OSM/VISTA Teams.