BY ZACHARY RISSMAN, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT NETWORK VISTA, THE HUB
In June of 2018, the summer before my senior year of college, I visited West Virginia for the first time. Over the span of two days, I drove over 900 miles to and through the state, wanting to see as much as I could of this new, wild, and wonderful place.
Even though I knew no one from West Virginia at the time and had no formal connections to the state, by August I had decided that this was the place I wanted to start my life after graduation. While the entrenched stereotypes of the state caused some confusion and concern in my family when I told them of my decision, I felt I had never been more clear-eyed in my life.
I saw in West Virginia the ability to create real, lasting, positive change in our communities, and the opportunity for West Virginia to serve as a model for the rest of the nation. We can prove to the other 49 states that we all can take control of our own social and economic futures in a robust and sustainable way.
I believe that West Virginia represents the soul of this nation, and the struggles within it reflect the core struggles within our country as a whole. I also believe that West Virginians are on the forefront of innovative and impactful community development efforts, and that the work being done today around the state will provide inspiration for generations to come.
This is why I am so excited to join The Hub as the Community Development Network VISTA. A vibrant, networked system of community development efforts holds the potential to vastly increase impact.
A network like this could serve as a model for other states looking to improve their own community development systems, positioning West Virginia as a national leader in community development. The results of this work could lead to a greater ability to provide needed services to our communities, improved efficiency and efficacy, and a national narrative change for West Virginia that accurately casts us as leaders and innovators.
When we are all able to communicate and collaborate more effectively, the opportunities to improve our work and improve our state are limitless.
Looking ahead, I am very excited to help contribute to the creation of a network to support West Virginians, and to make West Virginia my home.