Smithsonian Writing Project: Reflections from LCHS Students

The City of Weston is currently hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s “Crossroads Exhibit” which focuses on rural American.

As part of the program, all LCHS students were afforded the opportunity to attend a workshop and visit the WV Military Museum.

Weston and the WV Glass Museum was chosen to host this award  through the West Virginia Humanities Council through an extended deadline of December 4, 2021.

As part of the interactive nature of the program, the council wanted to get reflections from LCHS students following the presentation about their feelings about rural living, future careers and what they like best and least about the Lewis County community.

The Blue & Grey opened the discussion, and here are some thoughts from students:

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of community life in Weston and Lewis County, and to what extent do they arise from the use of land?

Tyler Morris, 14, Churchville:

I just moved to a new farm, and I really like living in the country. I enjoy doing things outside—I love hunting, riding horses, driving tractors, and I even enjoy weed-eating. I like living in Lewis County a lot more than where I used to live. I think some of the strengths are that our county is clean, and we get a good education.  I really like LCHS this year. I think a weakness of Lewis County is we don’t have a variety of stores. For example, in Buckhannon, they have Harbor Freight, Lowes, and lot of different stores that we don’t have.

2. What challenges have your family faced over the years given the changes in population and commerce that have occurred in Weston and Lewis County, and how has your family persisted up to the present time?

Anonymous, 18, Weston:

It is very difficult for families to find a home to rent or buy. The cost of land, houses, and rent is so expensive. Families who have one income have such a difficult time making it. They often have to live with other family members just to make ends meet. My mom had to take on a second–and even a third job–just to pay rent. That left us home alone in the evenings when I was younger. When I was able to get a job, I did, so I could help out with expenses.

A lot of the housing options are not nice for the amount people pay. For example, a family might pay $500-700 for a home that has high utility costs, no yard or land, and not enough bedrooms. That causes stress on our families. My family has persisted through housing challenges by having family that helps. We have also used the FRN as a resource to help us when times get tough.

Anonymous, 16, Jane Lew:

Addiction is a big deal for many families–drugs, prescriptions, and alcohol. Addiction can tear a family apart and destroy finances and even the person’s health. When people fall into addiction, it overtakes their lives, and kids are sometimes forgotten and neglected. This is a big problem for a lot of people.

3. What future would you like to see for Weston and Lewis County that would motivate you to remain here, and how should that future be achieved?

Hannah McHenry, 17, Weston:

I think Lewis County should look to utilize the old buildings that are vacant and make them viable businesses. There are old, nice homes that could be turned into homeless shelters for those who do not have good housing options. It would be so nice to do something good. And, I think the dilapidated, run-down homes and structures should be torn down to provide more room and make our community look more appealing and presentable.

I would love to see a big name restaurant come to our community. With 1-79 and the Asylum nearby, I think a restaurant like The Cheesecake Factory would be a great addition to our area. The closest Cheesecake Factory is in Pennsylvania. The Asylum brings in a ton of tourism, and we could work with it to offer people a place to eat as well as the entertainment of visiting the Asylum.

I would love to be in future leadership in our community. At the moment, I am undecided about whether I will stay here, but do want to be involved in the changing of our community for the better.

Adriann Cottrell, 18, Jacksons Mill:

There are three 7-11 buildings and the old Kroger’s–they are all empty. It would be nice if they could turn those empty buildings into something that is helpful to our community. I think the Kroger’s building would be a great place for something for kids and families.

I think if our community offers opportunities for our kids, it will help keep them on the right path and keep them from using drugs.

Emily Lybarger, 16, Jane Lew:

I definitely want to see Main Street lighten up a bit. I would like to see more shops open. I think building up Main Street would build a better foundation for our city and county. I would like to see more life on our streets. It would be nice to have more restaurants and activities for people during the day and evening. It was so lovely having Homecoming downtown. I love how they decorate the Weston Hub–for Homecoming and Christmas. We have such a cute, little town. It could be so much. It definitely has the potential to be like one of the towns on the Hallmark Channel.

I would like to see a multipurpose gym open that anyone could use. It could be for families, but it could also be for individuals. I would love to see basketball courts, weights, equipment, and a training area for athletics, practices, and classes (like yoga, aerobics, etc.). It would be great if the gym could have an area outside that could host outdoor practices–for lacrosse, football, soccer, baseball, softball, and other outside sports.  It would also be nice to have recreational activities available as well–like ping-pong tables, thuseball, etc. It could be a training gym. One that is in middle of town and easy to get to for people.=I think it could spark interest in kids to go out and participate in sports.

Owen Hunt, 16, Westfield:

I would love to see a recreational center like Bridgeport’s The Bridge. It’s a great facility, and I think our kids would really enjoy and use a facility like that. Ideally, I would like it to be even nicer, but if we had something similar, it would be great.

Makayla Ferguson, 16, Walkersville:

For the future of Lewis County that would motivate me to stay here would require a few changes in recreation, the community and business. I would enjoy seeing more things to do like a sports complex or even some type of gym that is open for public use. From a teen’s perspective, I think that it would be nice to have a bowling alley, movie theater and skating rink. Any of those are good for families, and they give people something to want to stay here to look toward the future. In the way of community, it would be nice to see changes in the way that we come together–maybe have some more giving and holiday spirit–maybe a Christmas tree or just something that the kids would enjoy having. I love the whole Miracle on Main Street event. I like things that get people and the community together.

It would be nice to see some change in the businesses we have as well. In the past, Main Street was filled with shops and places to go. I would enjoy having shops close to home so every time I wanted to shop I didn’t have to drive to Bridgeport or Morgantown. I think if we, as a whole, could get more people to open new businesses, it would convince me–and others–to either stay in Lewis County or come live in the county. If boutiques and little decorative shops open around the area, it would entice me to stay in the area.

Grant Mealey, 17, Weston:

I would like to see a place for kids to go to get better in sports. Although kids can go to Bridgeport and other places to train, not all kids have parents who can afford, or are willing, to do that. All kids should should an opportunity to participate in sports and get better.

Zachary James, 16, Roanoke:

I would like to see a recreational center for our community. I think it would really help our sports. Where I live, we are really isolated. We have two gas stations, and it takes me 20 minutes to get to town. There are a lot of people who live even further out than I live, too. It takes me an hour to get to Bridgeport, so that is not really a good option for a rec center. I think even if we had something in town, a thirty-minute commute would really cut down on time and expenses of travel. It would really help a lot of people.

4. What career have you chosen to pursue, and to what extent was your choice based on preferring a rural or an urban life?

Ashley Montgomery, 19, Weston: 

I would like to be a nurse. I am planning to attend WVU this fall to complete my RN coursework. I took my CNA classes through LCHS and Fred Eberle Technical Center, so I am a certified CNA. It will take me four years to get my degree, but I think it will definitely be worth it.

I hope to stay in Lewis County because I like living in the country. I would not like living in town; I think town is too crowded with people living on top of each other. I think being an RN would be a very useful degree because I can work in a hospital as I have always dreamed. I love helping people and watching them smile once you do help them. With that smile, you know you have helped them and made them more comfortable.

Lillie Cayton, 16: Jacksons Mill:

I want to have a career in agriculture in some capacity. I love farming. I love everything about it–working the animals, early morning chores, showing animals. I didn’t show animals until I was in seventh grade, but I wish I would have started even earlier. I always thought I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I don’t think I want to do that; I do know I want to work in in the agriculture industry, though. Thus, that will require me to live in rural area. I’m not sure what direction I will take, but I know I will work with animals. I would like to move out West, but I don’t think that will happen. I would be happy to live on a farm in this area.

 

Other Notes:

  • Many students want to see a Chick-fi-A come to Lewis County. Students said they thought with I-79 going through the county that it would make it an ideal location. Some of the other franchises that were mentioned in class discussions were Starbucks, Applebees, Cracker Barrel and The Cheesecake Factory.
  • Most students have a respect and affection for the land and outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, biking and walking. More than 50 percent of students asked responded that they preferred rural to urban living.
  • A few students noted that we needed a grocery store. Students in Southern Lewis County liked the Rock Cave IGA.
  • Many students mentioned the activities and tourism we have in the county–TALA, Jackson’s Mill, LC Park and the Stonewall Resort.
  • Students said they enjoyed having the Homecoming parade and dance in downtown. They said they appreciated the help of the community and businesses to make it happen.
  • If students lived someplace other than Lewis, most said they preferred the people in Lewis, but the housing at their other residence.
  • Students living across the county mentioned the abandoned, vacant and dilapidated buildings. Many said the structures need to be torn down; others said they would like to see the structures renovated and used to help those in need.
  • Almost every student wanted a recreational center, activity center, gym or youth center for the youth and families. The suggestions ranged from something like The Bridge in Bridgeport to the YMCAs in Clarksburg and Elkins to the Stockert Youth Center in Buckhannon.
  • Most students are undecided if they will remain in Lewis County after graduation. It is a mixed bag of reason why they might stay or go.
  • Most students said they were satisfied with their upbringing and education in Lewis County. Most hope for more job and housing opportunities.
  • Most students said they like the feeling that Lewis County is home, and there is support from the schools, community and businesses.
  • Students, if comparing Lewis County to another place, most frequently compared Lewis to two main communities: Bridgeport and Buckhannon. They compared Lewis to Bridgeport when discussing sports and the recreational center. Lewis was often compared to Buckhannon for attracting different businesses, having a lively downtown area and having “life” on Main Street.
  • Most students knew about the Weston Hub and liked the activities and decorations that are offered.