CHEF interns come from many different places, and sometimes they come from many places, bringing with them experiences that make them qualified to handle the large mission of working to eliminate persistent poverty in Appalachia. Brandon Weirick currently serves Appalachia from Kingsport, Tennessee at Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority as the CHEF Program’s Data Analyst intern. However, he originally hails from the Midwest because his father’s military job caused his family to move from Indiana to Kansas to Nebraska and then, finally, to Knoxville, where his family remained for years. He finished his schooling in Knoxville where he says that he never really learned much about the Appalachian region.
He went on to attend the University of Tennessee for his undergraduate degree. He was determined to go to law school, which is why he decided to major in Political Science. He graduated cum laude and as a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Afterwards, he worked for a social security disability law firm that fought for clients to help them receive social security benefits; however, he found that he did not particularly enjoy the field. He now attends Eastern Tennessee State University as a second year MBA student and is a member of the Phi Cappa Phi honor society. So why the jump from law to business? “”I enjoy accounting and finance,” he replied. “I’m a bit of a math nerd.”
He describes his work at Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority as exciting and hands-on. Furthermore, Brandon enjoys the impact that he has been making with the organization as well as the work content. “I’ve really enjoyed helping people. Relocation is fast-paced and ever changing, so I’m pretty occupied.” His duties include surveying residents to gauge their relocation wants and needs and inputting the information into a spreadsheet. However, he has also taken it upon himself to also map the relocation information for children that need to stay within school districts, a practice that had not yet been done in this relocation process. He is preparing the relocation of low income families so that KHRA may redevelop the area in which they are currently living. While that may seem daunting to some, he was excited in his description of the job and what it entails. “There’s a lot of data to analyze, and it’s interesting to see how that’s done in a nonprofit setting.”
My hope for Brandon is that all of the experience that he has gained in Appalachia will lead him to a future here, which he says that he is not opposed to. Hearing how willing he was to go out of the way to help the children affected by relocation stay within their districts showed me that he would be the kind of data analyst employee that would go beyond the data to understand their work and who it truly impacts. Having someone willing to think outside of the box to bring innovation and solutions for everyone will be crucial in the fight to end persistent poverty and build stronger communities, and it is perfectly possible that Brandon could be one of them in the future.