It’s Giving Tuesday and there are hundreds of thousands of worthy causes- so many important organizations who do God’s work and then some. I would like to offer a few words about The Origin Project, the nearly 10-year-old, year-round, in-school writing program that has encouraged, celebrated, supported and published young writers- in addition to giving them access to bestselling, published authors in the classroom. There are field trips to museums, libraries and events. Our students have read the poetry of Laurie Eustis aloud on the stage of the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia. They have connected with students around the state, celebrating their stories of origin and family. Appalachia is the heart of American literature, music and art- and it is there, in Big Stone Gap, that we began with 40 students in one school. Ten years later, we are statewide, with 2600 students in 25 schools- grades K through 12! If it seems like a miracle… it is.
My mom used to have a sign in her kitchen that said “There are only two bequests we can leave our children: roots and wings.” I remember nothing but I can see that framed artwork clearly and never let go of its wisdom. It just goes to show you that the words you pass in your home matter. She inculcated a sense of giving back, and paying forward, but she had no idea how that concept took root in me.
When I was a temp on Wall Street, there was a young, up-and-coming executive who was a true role model. She would soon become a wife, mother and philanthropist. Nancy Bolmeier Fisher co-founded The Origin Project with me- and has dedicated her life to it since- she enlisted volunteers, including Linda Woodward and Rhonda Carper, retired teachers with a passion for writing to help. Teachers took to the program, and soon their students began to examine in poetry, prose, music and art, their roots. They interview their grandparents, bake with an aunt, hear war stories, and more as they write their projects. There is nothing quite like the Unveilings, assemblies around the state with guest artists and local, state and national leaders weighing in on the new writers and their creations.
Keep reading in Part Two.
To donate to The Origin Project, click here.