Today I joined 40 other individuals from across the Appalachian region for the first day of our Appalachian Leadership Institute. I’m very excited to be working with the group in the inaugural class of Leadership Fellows. The program will run though July 2020, and we will be covering many different topics as we travel across the region: Leadership, Economic Opportunities, Ready Workforce, Critical Infrastructure, Natural and Cultural Assets, Community Capacity, and more.
My main thought for today is about the wide diversity of our region but also the commonality. As we met to chat and get to know each other, I could hear different accents and yet could hear similar stories. There is a wide range of interesting experiences and backgrounds among the participants, some native to the region and others who have arrived over time. We all have different perspectives, but we have all stepped forward to take this journey together. At dinner (sharing some truly amazing pulled pork and brisket), we were chatting about our local cuisines. I heard about some wonderful regional Italian pepperoni rolls that people drive miles out of their way to get. Others told about hot-out-of-the-fryer fried dough that was a staple of the local culture. These were an important part of the food scene that traced their history back to Italian immigrants who came to work in the coal mines. I shared about Cortland’s St Anthony’s festival and our own Italian heritage with similar but different food traditions. So I ended a long day thinking about how our regional, while diverse, does have much in common.
More info on the program at http://leadership.arc.gov