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McDowell Youths Among Statewide Competition Winners to Make Hometowns ‘Cooler’

From WVU Today
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia youths feel pretty passionate about their communities. And they are improving their hometowns by developing ideas and opportunities to make their communities even “cooler.”

Through the “My Hometown is Cool!” competition, four teams from four West Virginia counties – Greenbrier, Marshall, McDowell and Nicholas – will have an opportunity to implement their innovative ideas to make their towns cooler. WVU Extension Service and WVU Chambers College of Business & Economics have created a statewide initiative aimed at increasing youth voices in community development.

This year, the organizations hosted the My Hometown is Cool! statewide competition where teams of two or more youths (ages 9-18) were invited to submit a three-minute video showcasing why their hometown is cool. Each team also presented an idea for a project that they believed would make their hometown even cooler. Eight finalists were chosen to present their ideas to a panel of judges in April, and the four winning teams were selected to receive $2,500 to use to implement their ideas into their community.

“Engaging young people in community building serves as a catalyst for positive change and generates creativity,” Lauren Prinzo, community and economic development specialist, WVU Extension Service, explained. “We often discuss what our state needs or lacks. It is important that we acknowledge the wealth of assets we have in communities in our state and build upon them. These young people studied their hometowns, developed creative ideas and put a lot of thought and detail into their project plans. As we look at how we keep young people in our state, developing programs like this – ones that create space for their voices to be heard and ideas to be shared – gives us a great opportunity to give them the tools and knowledge they need to create opportunity. The judges, our sponsors and others were extremely impressed by the work of these young people. I want to congratulate all of the participants on a job well done.”

Winners of My Hometown is Cool competition include:

McDowell County: The County Perk

Karinna Finley, Meredith Miller, Dalton Powell and Autumn Reynolds are committed to creating new opportunities and offerings in their community. The team identified a need in the Welch community in the form of caffeine. The “County Perk,” an artisan coffee and baked goods food cart, not only will provide a service currently not available in town, but also create a “third” space in the city.

Using the $2,500 mini-grant, the team will create a pop-up coffee shop experience, which will be hosted throughout the town this summer, and provide them with an opportunity to test their business the concept. Starting small, the group hopes to use the sales from the coffee cart to generate revenues that can be used to expand and/or support the existing business. 

Looking to the future, the group would like to purchase and rehabilitate a building in downtown Welch that would become a brick and mortar coffee shop. The shop also would include a “features” space for open mic nights and a used book store, as well as space to support other youth entrepreneurs. The team is coached by Jenny Totten of the West Virginia Community Development HUB.