VISTAs of West Virginia: Jakeya Perrin Rediscovers Her College Town and Sees A Bright Future for West Virginia

In the VISTAs of West Virginia series, you’ll learn more about the VISTAs working in Hub communities uplifting economic and community development teams around the state. Sign up for our email list and get the VISTAs of West Virginia series delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

Jakeya Perrin, AmeriCorps VISTA (Elkins)

For Jakeya Perrin, becoming an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) with the West Virginia Community Development Hub (The Hub) was an unexpected solution. She knew that she couldn’t leave the state without doing something positive for her community and this VISTA opportunity was the perfect place to start. Jakeya, like many recent college graduates, was looking for a job after graduation but was getting to the end of her rope as she searched. That’s when she started to consider committing to a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA – the description of a service project based in her local community of Elkins piqued her interest.

“I love West Virginia and I fell in love with Elkins,” Jakeya says. “As an alumna of Davis & Elkins College, I look back and see that there are things about the campus I wish were different and how the town and the campus interacted is something I’ve always thought should be improved.”

With that spirit, Jakeya applied to the VISTA opportunity in Elkins, which aligned with the kinds of positive changes she wanted to see for her community. The description of the work was to help carry out a program that benefits both the students and community in Elkins by creating opportunities for students to get involved in their community through organizations or small businesses.

“I can’t leave this state without doing something, even if it’s something as minuscule as showing college students there is more to their college town,” Jakeya expresses. “I wanted this position as a way to give back to a place I’ve called home for the last few years.”

Her time volunteering as a VISTA changed Jakeya’s perspective about Elkins, a place she considered home for a few years while in college. During her years at Davis and Elkins College, Jakeya was an active student-athlete with the occasional trips off campus to restaurants, bars, the Forest Festival, and Walmart. Now, she has grown familiar with the town and the people that have surrounded her for years.

“I think what has grown is myself,” Jakeya admits when asked how the community has grown during her year as a VISTA. “I have come to really know the community and recognize how wonderful it is.”

She adds: “On the community aspect of things though, the last event I assisted with was the Elkins Entrepreneurs Expo and the entire two day event showed just how ready Elkins and the people of Elkins are for expansion and growth in the community. Everyone has a crazy idea and everyone has a new business venture, but the most important part of this is that everyone also wants to stay here and see their ideas grow the community.”

As her time as a VISTA in Elkins comes to an end, Jakeya is optimistic about Elkins’s and West Virginia’s future, but it will take work. Primarily, Jakeya thinks it is time, and that West Virginia is ready, to have tough conversations about marginalized communities and their past treatments. She appreciates being able to work with women in positions of power who have motivated her in her own journey to law school after her time as a VISTA.

“People of color and Black people also belong wherever they want to be with the same rights and respect as white people. The LGBTQ+ community belongs wherever they want to be with the same rights and respect as everyone else,” Jakeya explains. “The lack of education on subjects about the treatment of minorities and the ignorance to the real problems in the world are apparent everywhere. It’s time that we start breaking glass ceilings and pulling chairs up to the table. Being uncomfortable is not an excuse anymore.”

By doing that, Jakeya hopes younger generations will choose to stay in West Virginia and continue to call it home. Her vision for West Virginia is that the state’s population will begin to reflect the rest of the nation in terms of diversity.

“[I want to see] young people staying or returning after school, settling down and taking over or starting newer businesses,” Jakeya shares. “I would like to see them investing in the area, planting their own roots or expanding on the ones they have already. The next generations are more than alright; they are proud, smart, kind, passionate, and ready to be the change this country, state, town, and so forth needs. I’d love for those doors to be welcoming and open for them to step in and do just that.”

The West Virginia Development Hub hosts AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) volunteers in communities participating in our coaching programs as well as in partnership with organizations around the state. The Hub currently has VISTA sub-sites in Fairmont, Morgantown, Rainelle, Clarksburg, Elkins, and other communities. The VISTA program was founded in 1965 and is an anti-poverty program providing needed resources to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to help lift communities out of poverty. The VISTA program places volunteers 18 years or older into communities where they perform a year of full-time volunteer service.

Interested in becoming a VISTA? Check out current opportunities through The Hub »

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For too long, who and what it means to be a West Virginian has been defined for us. It’s time to redefine the Mountain State in our own words and in the eyes of the world. West Virginia can be anything we want it to be – let’s redefine it together.

Parsons

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Message from our Executive Leadership Team

Fifteen years ago, stakeholders building up local communities and economies in West Virginia convened to map a coordinated strategy to systemically grow community economic development activity in the state. From the shared vision and collaborative leadership of dozens of strategic partners across the state, the WV Community Development Hub was born.

Since that time, The Hub has grown into the anchor community development organization serving West Virginia. We have built upon the original vision to create a method for rural, community-led development strategies that is uniquely tailored to the needs and opportunities of our state.

As we have grown and developed a proven model for success, our partnerships with community and economic development practitioners, funders, and committed West Virginia residents have been foundational to every element of our work.

Over the past two years, the team at The Hub has adapted to the unprecedented challenges our communities have faced during the pandemic by leaning into our core strengths to deepen our impact. The Hub remains committed to tackling persistent challenges, and we have focused our attention on the most impactful elements of our work.

We are supporting community leaders to advance their visions for local development, creating new pathways for engagement and leadership growth through our virtual training platform, and leading strategies that lift up voices of community leaders to move forward solutions to long-held challenges to growth.

If the past two years have taught us anything, it is that nothing about the future is set in stone. While the coming year may present enormous opportunities for advancement in our state, they will also inevitably require significant capacity building, shared strategies that are grounded in trust-based partnerships, and extended efforts to support the leadership development of individuals and organizations who have been asked to do more during a time of extreme stress and strain.

The services that anchor organizations like The Hub provide are even more critical in this time, and we expect our work to scale significantly in the coming years ahead.

We look forward to continuing to do the work of putting into action the vision and the shared strategies envisioned by that core group of community economic development practitioners and funders fifteen years ago.

In Continued Accompaniment,

– WV Community Development Hub
Executive Leadership Team

Stephanie Tyree

Executive Director

Amanda Workman Scott

Director of Community Engagement

Emma Pepper

Director of Strategic Network Communications

Katie Loudin

Director of Strategic Development

Montgomery

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Smithers

Residents participated in the Cultivate WV program to kickstart community and economy building. Read their community case study.

Kingwood

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Lewis County

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future.

Meadow River Valley Region

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Monticello Neighborhood of Clarksburg

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Watch their community documentary.

New Martinsville

Residents participated in the Blueprint Communities* program to engage their neighbors and co-create strategic plans for their future. Read their community case study.

Systemic Change

2021 became a time period of catalytic potential as we saw years of investment into our core strategies to enact systemic change yield new results. Our strategic focus areas include policy, communications, and supporting the community economic development system in leveraging unique financing opportunities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative and Opportunity Zones.

In addition, through our strategic policy support role within the Abandoned Properties Coalition, The Hub successfully advanced two key objectives: the creation of a statewide land bank at the West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation and extension of the state’s Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. 

Through the Opportunity Appalachia program, 6 catalytic community projects located in WV-based Opportunity Zones received $250,000 for pre-development technical assistance. Three projects received additional private funding as a result of program participation.

Community Coaching

In 2021, we accompanied 16 communities through our in-depth, professional coaching programs. In addition to leaning into coaching and financing opportunities offered through these programs, participating communities leveraged an additional $2.8 million in funding on their own for community economic development projects. While participating in our entry-level coaching program, Cultivate WV, Montgomery and Smithers realized momentum-building success through access to $40,000 in seed funding for projects like farmers markets, public art, wayfinding, community events, and development of a trail system.

Six communities, Lewis County, Kingwood, Meadow River Valley, Monticello neighborhood in Clarksburg, New Martinsville and Parsons, graduated the intermediate planning program Blueprint Communities* with strategic plans in place. We also launched a new round of HubCAP, our flagship community economic development program, in six towns located in the Monongahela National Forest region: Cowen, Franklin, White Sulphur Springs, Elkins, Marlinton, and Petersburg.

Elkins

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. 

A core team led by Woodlands Development Group also participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Franklin

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Marlinton

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Petersburg

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

White Sulphur Springs

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies.

Charleston

A core team led by Crawford Holdings, LLC participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Huntington

Core teams led by Thundercloud, Inc. and the City of Huntington participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support community development projects located in Opportunity Zones.

Grafton

A core team led by Unleash Tygart, Inc participated in Opportunity Appalachia, receiving technical assistance to support a community development project located in an Opportunity Zone.

Leadership Development

As hundreds of people began to engage in our virtual training activities in 2020, we saw a critical opportunity to scale and deepen our impact. This year, The Hub team developed an accessible, virtual platform with options for self-guided and group learning activities as well as professional coaching.

Kickstart Communities is now the crux of our efforts to bring new people into the work and grow their leadership. These activities now form the foundational stages of a Community Leadership Development Pipeline to move motivated residents from seeing the challenges in their communities to proactively collaborating to resolve them.

Cowen

Residents participated in round 4 of The Hub’s capstone Communities of Achievement program with a focus on building local recreational economies. Read their community case study.