Reconnecting McDowell Initiative
Fahe is proud to announce that we are partnering with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in a very important project known as Reconnecting McDowell. Reconnecting McDowell is a comprehensive initiative that partners the county with businesses, foundations, government, and nonprofit agencies to reshape the educational and economic structure of the area to provide the children of McDowell County, West Virginia with a chance for a successful future.
McDowell County is located in the West Virginia coalfields and since the coal industry began pulling out in the 1960’s, the region has been stuck in an economical downward trend. Like many Appalachian communities, McDowell County suffers from high unemployment, lack of quality housing, and poor infrastructure. McDowell County also faces its own unique challenges to overcome:
- McDowell County has lost nearly 100,000 residents since 1965, taking the population from over 120,000 to 22,000.
- One-third of the population is unemployed
- 70% of the children live in a household where there isn’t a working adult.
- 46% of the children in the school system live with someone other than a biological parent
- Among WV counties, McDowell County constantly ranks at or near the bottom for health, income, and education.
- McDowell County has the fifth highest rate of deaths from drug abuse of any county in the country
- McDowell County is the 8th poorest county in the U.S.
Housing For Teachers
An important challenge facing the area is the lack of teachers. There are no quality houses or apartments for them to live. The options that are available in the area are often substandard quality or highly isolated.
The AFT has envisioned a teacher’s village to be located in the heart of downtown Welch, the county seat of McDowell County. This village will provide teachers with affordable, quality housing and amenities including TV lounges, exercise rooms, a restaurant, and group work areas. It is hoped that the location, quality, and sense of community in the village will attract the needed teachers.
A successful, existing teacher village in Baltimore, MD inspired the AFT, but Appalachia is a vastly different climate in which to work. Fahe is involved because of our vast experience and expertise in connecting Appalachian communities with specialized resources and funding.
Reconnecting McDowell received national attention during the recent 2013 Clinton Global Initiative America event. Hillary Clinton referenced the good works being done in McDowell County as a model for how American communities can be reshaped through collaborative work. “In a place like McDowell County, West Virginia, the problems didn’t start with the latest recession and no single program or investment is going to turn things around.” Clinton said. “The schools, jobs, infrastructure, public health, it’s all connected, and you have to work on all of them at the same time. That’s what this new partnership is designed to do.”
Fahe is very proud to be a part of Reconnecting McDowell. The teacher village is an exciting step in the right direction to provide the children of the area with the quality education they deserve in order to have a better future.
We will follow the progress of the teachers’ village closely on the Fahe blog and provide updates over the course of development.
For more information about Reconnecting McDowell, you can visit their website at www.reconnectingmcdowell.org.