New Market, TN—Highlander Research and Education Center launched the second cohort of its Appalachian Transition Fellowship (AppFellows) January 5, 2017. AppFellows increases the connectivity, capacity, and shared analysis of Appalachian institutions, communities, and leaders to support regional transformation. Ten fellows will spend the year working within host communities throughout the region to help foster cross-sector (education, nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropy, and government) partnerships, provide needed capacity to regional efforts, and build personal and professional skills.

Emerging leaders began their fellowship with a week-long tour of Central Appalachia that will build and support the collective analysis of regional institutions and communities, grounding their work for addressing systemic problems such as healthy food access, economic revitalization, and land ownership to create a just and sustainable Appalachian economy.

For interview opportunities, please contact Elizabeth Wright at or call 865-202-5447


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A native of West Virginia, Zach Bailey is excited to learn more about effective strategies and tools to make Appalachia a better place. Although he completed graduate school at Marshall University in 2016, Zach strives to maintain the inquisitive mindset of a student. As such, he possesses a perpetual interest in understanding how people use various forms of interaction, in particular narrative, to construct their social realities. Zach has worked as a self-employed musician, a teaching assistant at Marshall University, and as a communication intern with Ronald McDonald House Charities. In his spare time, Zach enjoys music, most genres of television, and NBA basketball.

Alice Beecher is an activist, writer and musician working with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Whitesburg, KY. A dedicated transplant, Alice grew up in Massachusetts but has spent the past several years organizing for economic, environmental, and social justice in Appalachia. For the past two years, she served as a youth mentor, educator and organizer with High Rocks Educational Corporation in southern West Virginia. Beforehand, she organized against extractive industries and for worker’s rights in Ohio. In her spare time, Alice likes to play the banjo, talk about mental health, write and perform poetry, and find edible plants in the woods.

Courtney Boyd grew up in eastern Kentucky and lived in the state until her early 20’s when she decided that there was a lot left unlearned by the conventional education she had received up to that point.  That’s when she departed from Appalachia, first working for social justice and women’s rights with native peoples in South Dakota.  This started a path of experiential learning where she lived in Utah building beautiful houses with natural materials, worked for solar energy non-profits in Colorado, organically farmed vegetables and worked for a small birch syrup business in Alaska.  Returning to Appalachia last year was a deliberate move to act on the idea that young people need not seek a far off place to find their community but instead can create home where a place needs them.

Although many things have influenced her life, digging her hands in the soil and knowing the love of tender sprouts peeking above ground in spring is what inspires her most.  Courtney believes we have the ingredients already in place to support ourselves and communities in a way that enhances life, not degrades it, and is looking forward to cooking these up with the Appalachian Transition Fellowship.

Brittany Means Carowick is a native of Charleston, WV.  As a first-generation college student, she completed her undergraduate degree at Concord University 2012 and achieved her Master’s in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University in 2015. In between, she served a year as an AmeriCorps member in rural West Virginia. Brittany’s academic research examines the Hispanic experiences in Appalachia, but she’s also personally passionate about Appalachian placemaking, youth retention in the mountains, and community self-determination. Brittany co-founded the Appalachian Studies Association’s youth leadership committee, Y’ALL, in 2014 and still serves on ASA’s steering committee. Since earning her Master’s, Brittany’s path has led her back to WV, into the nonprofit community and economic development sector. She lives in Charleston with her husband, Joseph.

Sam Hamlin grew up in a rural community in the New River Valley area of southwestern Virginia. At 19, she left home and went to college in Chicago. While away from the region, she got involved in grassroots community organizing against the war in Iraq and has been organizing for justice ever since. She is passionate about racial and economic justice issues, and has done work around sexual assault prevention education, immigrant rights solidarity, and racial justice organizing with rural communities in Oregon. Though she has been away from the region, she has ached to be back in the mountains for many years. She is grateful for the opportunity to return to Appalachia to give back to the place and the people that reared her.

Brought home to these mountains as an infant, Hope Hart is a Korean adoptee from Ritchie County, West Virginia. A stubborn optimist restless as a bystander, she has worked within affordable housing, literacy and prison reform, open access education, and other causes close to the heart of Appalachia. A graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in English literature, Hope sees storytelling as a powerful tool for social and economic justice, and sees the region as a library of voices ready for the world to read.


Abby Huggins was raised in Wilkes County, North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Elementary Education. Afterwards, she collaborated with rural organizations in Grenada, West Indies and Nome, Alaska, working with youth, elders, and families around education, culture, community, food access, and housing justice. Abby spent several seasons working on sustainable farms, first in Alaska, then in North Carolina. She is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi with an emphasis on oral history, foodways, and Appalachia and plans to graduate in May 2017. Her thesis project is based on stories of food and community gathered through oral history interviews in and around Letcher County, Kentucky. Abby is deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the work Highlander is doing and to support movements around food and dance in.

Terran Young’s family has been in the Wise County, Va area for over 100 years. Terran spent her younger child hood years in Virginia before moving to Ohio. She has been back in VA for over 10 years and is looking forward to working with and in the community.

Brennan Zerbe grew up in Charleston, WV.  He left West Virginia to study Spanish at Appalachian State in North Carolina.  Brennan returned to Charleston in 2014 and began work at a bookstore, Taylor Books, where I spent most of my time curating the book selection and trying to get folks to read!