Anthony Center School, West Virginia
“I learned that my voice matters.”
Anthony Correctional Center is not a conventional place to create a book about the environment. The facility, in its secluded, and secure location, is surrounded by chain link fence topped with razor wire. Residents are monitored continuously and are confined to the facility yet, in the distance the lush and ever-present mountains of this “wild and wonderful” state are a reminder that the West Virginia environment plays a role in everyone’s life here. It can be experienced by simply stepping out into the misty morning or feeling the heat of the blazing afternoon sun. This environment has now been captured in the This Is Ours book series, created entirely by students, at the Anthony Center School.
Hailing from all over the state, and with a few newcomers to West Virginia, a collaborative exchange of knowledge was one of the most beautiful aspects of bringing This Is Ours to Anthony Center School. A brainstorming session kicked off the project as our twenty participants recalled everything they knew about the environment of West Virginia, surprising each other with information unique to their own home environment. Some were familiar with city life in the north, and others grew up deep in a “holler;” some grew up on farms raising animals and others near coal mines, yet the blending of their diverse knowledge has created a colorful and informative view of the West Virginia environment. Everyone had to rely on their creativity, ingenuity and each other as they worked in teams to create chapters entitled Climate, Farming, the Holler, Recreation and Wild & Wonderful.
Taking the time to focus a camera, compose a photograph, mix an exact color and describe what it is like to experience the environment in both prose and poetry were important aspects of this program for the participants, teaching them that patience really pays off. Photographing bees, catching the drops of rain on a leaf and slowing down long enough to notice the world around will make it impossible to “overlook something just because you see it every day,” as one student noted.
West Virginia, with its mountainous regions and beautiful wilderness, outdoor life, farming community and industry is an environment worth documenting, sharing, and protecting. We at e² education & environment are inspired by these young men and women, who channeled their creativity and stepped outside their comfort zones to present their ideas and opinions with us and each other. As they connect with the world around them not only in West Virginia, but across the globe, they see themselves in the greater context and strive to be heard.