I am not from Appalachia. But I am a product of Appalachia.
I always say I’m not really from anywhere. I grew up a military brat—both my parents served in the U.S. Air Force for most of my childhood. I lived in various states and another country, so there never was a place that felt like home—except Kentucky. My mom was born and raised in Kentucky, so it’s where we traveled on holidays and summer breaks. My dad was born and raised in northeastern Pike County, Ky., in Belfry, just one mile from the West Virginia border.
So it didn’t matter if we lived in the desert of New Mexico, the plains of Oklahoma or the tropics of coastal Japan; I grew up knowing how to make the perfect sweet tea, playing outside until you heard momma’s whistle and rooting for Miss Kentucky in the televised Miss America pageants every year. I understood the importance of hard work and the value of education, though neither of my parents attended college. Their dreams and aspirations were big—even if not fully realized—and their expectations were high.
Today, I’ve lived in Kentucky for more than half my life, and I married a Berea alumnus from wild and wonderful West Virginia. I’ve been surrounded by the beauty, diversity and uniqueness of Appalachia longer now than I was absent from it. And though I’ve observed a lot and assimilated some, there still is so much about this place and people that I learn every day.
Go Behind the Scenes
There are numerous behind-the-scenes shots from our cover photo shoot at Owsley Fork Reservoir in Berea, Ky., that capture the essence of the Home Place.
In this issue of the Berea College Magazine, I hope you’ll get a taste for the rich diversity that makes up this region, as students, alumni and faculty share their experiences and perspectives growing up and/or serving in Appalachia. We all know there are myths and off-putting stereotypes about Appalachia that have permeated mainstream culture. But, I hope this issue illustrates the marvelous concepts Loyal Jones describes in his book “Appalachian Values”— individualism, self-reliance and pride, neighborliness and hospitality, family solidarity, personalism, love of place, modesty and being one’s self, sense of beauty and sense of humor. That’s exactly what we tried to portray on the cover of the magazine: hospitality shared through a large family meal where people from all backgrounds are welcomed at the table, gathered in the picturesque beauty of the Appalachian landscape.
As you read stories from our students about their upbringing and connection to the region and stories from our alumni about their activism and service to the region they call home, I hope you are reminded of why Berea’s mission in Appalachia is enduring and important. And I hope you learn something new about how Berea’s eighth Great Commitment to serving Appalachia has impacted the region and the people since the College’s founding.
Abbie Tanyhill Darst ’03