Epic dreams and epic efforts can bring epic results, especially when motivated students get involved.
Last spring, Julie Yearego, a teacher at Lincoln High School, received encouragement from the West Virginia Department of Education to have her students participate in the EPIC tourism grant, a program of the WVDE and the West Virginia Department of Tourism.
This fall, they received word that their $15,000 grant application was accepted. The funds will pay for larger and more visible signage, especially at the boat ramp. Money will also support the hosting of “multiple events utilizing rail and water trails.” The City of Shinnston and Harrison Rail Trails will support the project by providing in-kind labor.
Yearego shared that her students sought out participation and partnership from a number of local and county officials and organizations. Chad Edwards, Shinnston City Manager, talked to the students and answered questions about the process.
Students engaged with the Guardians of the West Fork River. They also “met and received input from” Kent Spellman, co-chair of the Harrison Rail Trails. Just as any other grant applicants, they put together a detailed request and also obtained letters of support. The request was based in part on surveys of local businesses engaged in tourism. Yearego said they “imparted that information into our request.”
EPIC stands for “Economic Projects Impacting Communities.” According to the WVDE, it requires “partnering with local businesses and other community organizations.” Although the results bring improvements to local communities, WVDE emphasizes that “the goal of the competition is to enhance students’ technical skills and creativity while making an impact in their local community.”
As Yearego explained, students learned a great deal about their community and the processes that go into improvements. She said that “a lot of people didn’t even know it (the trail system) exists, even the students.” Now they have an awareness of “underutilized resources” that when improved and publicized, can help draw in tourists.
Lincoln High School and Shinnston join a list of communities that have already benefited from the EPIC grant project. Moorefield High School in Hardy County used EPIC funds to “transform a vacant lot located beside the high school into an attractive commercial area by creating a vibrant and sustainable micro-business complex.” The first two businesses will be a micro-cafe and a micro-agriculture market.
Also, the Roane-Jackson Technical Center, in conjunction with the offices of the mayors of Ripley and Spencer, will work together to improve local parks.