ARC wraps 2023 ‘Appalachia Rises’ conference

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Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 10:11 PM EDT
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ASHLAND, Ky. (WYMT) - The Appalachian Regional Commission finished its annual conference Tuesday, hosting breakout sessions and more to help Appalachian advocates create change in their own backyards.

The panel discussions ranged from digital equity to healthcare and higher education, with discussions about the future of the workforce and creating partnerships. Attendees spent the morning sharing ideas- from successes to struggles- to find ways to cultivate and navigate a changing region.

“Come up with solutions; share best practices so that everyone has equal access across the board, said Marie Lindskoog with Western Governors University. “And bringing these communities together and networking is just one way to do that.”

Agencies, individuals and organizations from throughout the region worked to find their common ground, hoping to leave the conference with a renewed mission.

“Everybody being in the room together helps make sure people get what they need. Like, it’s a simple thing but it had a big difference. And, so, that’s something we all could learn from. And I think there’s a lot of power in that,” said Debbie Phillips, Rural Action CEO.

The programming closed out on a discussion with Kentucky author and poet, Silas House, who shared his story of becoming a storyteller and how the region helped pave the way for his pen.

“I was really proud to be here and represent Kentucky as the poet laureate and just to talk about the power of Appalachian storytelling. The Appalachian Regional Commission has done so much great work for our region, so I’m proud to be part of that story today,” House said.

He said the work of those in attendance should be celebrated.

“I think Appalachian people have been- historically, we’ve had to get together and do the work. And we just continue to do that,” he said. “There’s been so many obstacles put before us as a region but we keep going forward and keep working hard and fighting to make everything a better place.”

Those in attendance said it was a great way to close out an event that was essentially about finding their voices and using them to help the region rise- saying they enjoyed seeing talents like House and musician Tyler Childers incorporated as part of the program.

“Doesn’t matter which holler you live down or which big city or whatever you come from. If you have big dreams, you can achieve them. And they just represent that hope and opportunity for the people of Appalachia,” said Lindskoog.