Participating in the SEEDS West Virginia trip has taught me much about the power of a strong, supportive community. McDowell County is the poorest county in West Virginia–plagued by drug abuse, heavy flooding, poor health, and abandoned buildings. However, in the midst of such destruction and struggles, lies a community deeply rooted to the land. People stay due to the sense of belonging they have among family and others who have graciously provided various types of support. Some things I learned during our stay in West Virginia that I intend to live by on campus: 1) Be authentic. 2) Slow down and really listen to others. 3) Own and share your story. 4) See where people are coming from—empathy. 5) Be present.
We also learned a lot about the coal mining industry. Many people rely on coal as a source of income but this declining industry harms the environment and its people in ways oftentimes overlooked. I plan to work with a few students and professors in creating a lab assignment for a science class either or both in the chemistry and biology departments. There would be a pre-lab reading about coal in West Virginia and the purpose of the lab would be to apply the lab skills taught to learn about the effects of coal.
Mercy Dela Merced