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Learning to Love West Virginia

Writing this final blog has been hard. It seems impossible to put into words what I’ve experienced these last nine months and how I’ve grown since that first class in August. So bear with me here.

Getting to be part of BrandJRNY is a unique and special experience. But getting to be part of the entire project for both semesters has made it even more so. I've learned more than I thought possible in the two roles I've held for this branding project. Looking back at who I was in the fall, I can say with full certainty that I am a different person. Being part of BrandJRNY has made me a much more confident person overall. From my past blogs, I've talked frequently about what BrandJRNY has taught me. Aside from the obvious things I've learned, there is one that holds importance above everything. Being part of this capstone and working with the community of Point Pleasant has made me fall back in love with West Virginia.

I don't like talking about my past for many reasons, but being part of something bigger than myself has shown me there's no reason for that. Everyone starts somewhere. I grew up poor, on a dead-end back road. Life wasn't easy for my family, but that gave me an edge to always work harder. I hated living in West Virginia. I didn't want to stay in-state for school, but it was the most affordable option. I always thought, "After these four years are over, I'm leaving as fast as I can." I won't lie to you; I was bitter towards this state. I had a mentality that I grew up poor because of the area, that I would always be just a little less smart than other kids because they had better public educations, and that being from West Virginia would automatically put me at the bottom of everyone's list. It's a ridiculous notion that I had, a chip on my shoulder I thought would never heal. But working with the community of Point Pleasant opened my eyes. So thank you, to every resident that I've met.

Fall BrandJRNY Team with the Point Pleasant Committee Members | Source: Max Shavers

Thank you for showing me the good in West Virginia—that growing up here is an advantage and I’m lucky to call this my home state. People from this state are warm and welcoming, and they don’t care how you grew up or where you came from, just that you treat others kindly. Thank you to BrandJRNY, for allowing me to develop skills and gain experience I would have never got in other programs. I knew I wanted to stay in West Virginia and continue helping communities from the first event we held. Seeing so many people in one room, so passionate about their town and their residents’ futures made me feel something I hadn’t felt in years—a love for my state. I felt a commitment to stay here and make a difference. I’m happy to say I am going to do that through Generation West Virginia’s Impact Fellowship and, specifically, Farms Work Wonders. I don’t know what my life will be like in a year, but I know that my gratitude for this state, Point Pleasant and BrandJRNY will always stay the same. I can say with full certainty that my life would be completely different if I hadn’t been part of this project. Thank you again, to BrandJRNY and to everyone in Point Pleasant for showing me what being a West Virginian truly means, and taking a chance on me. 

My name is Chelsea Harper. I am the Digital Media Director for BrandJRNY’s Point Pleasant project. My posts (and life) generally revolve around my 100-pound dog, Olive. Follow me to see our journey and unreasonable amounts of dog pics. --- @chelseaharperrr

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