As executive director of the Pine Mountain Settlement School in Kentucky, Geoff Marietta (MBA 2007) is incorporating local Appalachian culture into the education and daily lives of the rural community the school serves. In this interview, he talks how this hyper-local strategy is being realized.
“I'm the executive director at Pine Mountain Settlement School, which is a community development nonprofit located in one of the poorest regions in the United States, Harlan County. Our work spans four main areas––environmental education, community development, Appalachian culture and heritage, and sustainability and farm work. We bring thousands of students from all over the world on three- to five-day courses and retreats to learn about how humans impact the earth. We have lots of adult workshops. We run an early-childhood program that is free for all community members and their children, birth to five years old. And we provide a free, hearty, nutritious meal that has most of it grown on our farm.
“What underpins a lot of our work is Appalachian culture and heritage. We're very true to trying to bring out the strengths of this authentic, amazing beautiful culture that can only be found, really, in Eastern Kentucky and parts of West Virginia. I became very excited about the potential of people in Eastern Kentucky, particularly young folks, as their economy is going through and has gone through this major transformation.
“Sustainable, resilient solutions are only going to come when they're actually based on the place in which they're trying to serve. If you're trying to come up with a new, unique instructional method, or you're trying to teach a very complicated concept, if you can connect that to where a child has grown up and their knowledge and their context, that has real staying power and a real, impactful influence on their learning. Pine Mountain's approach is to basically base everything that we do 0n the context in the world in which we operate.”
(Published January 2018)
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