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Blog, Civic Engagement, Field Exchange

Lights, Camera, Action for Civic Engagement in Kentucky! 

I take with me Kentucky, embedded in my brain and heart, in my flesh and bone and blood.  Since I am Kentucky, and Kentucky is part of me.

– Jesse Stuart

Six hundred miles separate Langley, Kentucky, from the Bronx, New York.  Differences abound. Langley is an old coal-mining community rooted in a proud tradition. The Bronx is home to hip-hop and innovation and waves of immigrants.  One is urban, one is rural.  One often leans red, the other often leans blue. However, in April, students from University Heights High School in the Bronx and Floyd Central High School in Langley managed to come together to shatter stereotypes and break through boundaries through the art of story exchange. The 21 students found commonalities, developed brand new insights about each other, and explored ways their ideas for civic engagement projects—together!—can make a lasting impact on their communities.  (If you missed NBC’s TODAY show spotlighting the “genius” of the November, 2022 N4 Field Exchange, see it here now). 

In April the students reunited once more.  They reviewed their civic engagement project work and took part in workshops on how to pitch their project ideas through film with the help of Appalshop, a media, arts and education center, and  The Holler, a local organization dedicated to improving education in the community.  The sparks of creativity flew in all directions.  

After their Story Exchanges, students grabbed a partner and do-si-doed for an evening of square dancing. They engaged with artists like Adam Booth, award-winning Appalachian storyteller, and Hasan Davis, who chronicled the lives of local heroes.  Historian Bobby Akers led students through the history of Wheelwright, the nearby coal-mining town. Students also got a chance to attend Floyd Central High School’s Homecoming dance, an important tradition and source of pride in Appalachian communities. Equipped with new skills, new-found connections and collaborative experiences across both communities, these students are ready to change the world!   

Reflecting on her Field Exchange experience in Kentucky, University Heights High School student, Charlotte Estella, wrote, “I came to the realization that not everything is what you expect. I had a certain expectation of Kentucky and it wasn’t like that. I also realized how much can change between two people when they take the time to listen to one another.”