Students Learn from Experiences in Glade Spring, Virginia

Posted on: Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
by Brent Treash

Twenty-year-old Tiffany Barr has never had a shortage of things to do as a life-long resident of Glade Spring. “There’s plenty to do around here,” said Barr, a rising junior at Emory & Henry who described herself as a country girl.  “I love the outdoors. I like to walk on the Salt Trail, fish and hunt.”

But, like many of her Emory & Henry friends, Barr would like to see downtown Glade Spring develop into a college town, offering students more recreational opportunities that do not sacrifice the quaint hometown atmosphere residents appreciate. “You don’t have to be big to make things better,” said Barr, who believes a coffee shop scheduled to open in town could become a hub for students to visit and do homework.

Barr had the opportunity to learn more about revitalization efforts in Glade Spring while enrolled in Introduction to Sociology, a course taught by Shelley Koch, during spring semester. For a service-learning project, students in the introductory course interviewed young adults in the Glade Spring community who have either lived there all of their lives or have moved back to the area. After designing a questionnaire and conducting interviews, the students presented a preliminary analysis to Dirk Moore, a member of Project Glade, and Lee Coburn, mayor of the town, both of whom visited the classroom.

Barr and her classmates’ efforts built on the foundation laid by Koch’s fall semester students. During the fall introductory course, students observed the atmosphere of the town square before designing a survey to assess the amount of interaction between the College and the town. After gathering information on what students would like to see happen in the town, the class members presented a preliminary analysis of the data to Project Glade members. 

Despite statistics which indicate a majority of young people migrate from small towns, the psychology major said her roots run deep in Southwest Virginia, and she plans to stay in the region after graduating from college to pursue a career as a drug addiction specialist. Barr has seen the ill effects drugs have had on her high school friends, and she wants to help make a difference in the lives of people who have made poor choices.

Barr is only one of many Emory & Henry students who have played active roles in the revitalization efforts of downtown Glade Spring since the formation of Project Glade, an organization devoted to economic development in town. E&H students have worked alongside residents of Glade Spring to help create a visually pleasing and thriving downtown that will boost local business while honoring the heritage of the community. 

No doubt, service projects performed by students like Anna Blydenburgh, a senior at the College, help to bridge the College and the community.

Blydenburgh said her participation with service projects in Glade Spring has helped her form a stronger bond with the people and the place, an opportunity not always available to her in Hampton Bays, N.Y. “When I return to Emory each fall, I realize how different the two areas are, and I am thankful I have been able to live in a place these past three years where the people feel so connected to each other.”

When Blydenburgh arrived on campus in 2010, she described herself as a student who looked at the community through the eyes of an outsider, a façade that was erased when she began to work alongside the people and places of the region. While participating in Appalachian Literature, a course taught by Nicole Drewitz-Crockett, Blydenburgh interviewed Sylvia White of Glade Spring as part of an oral history project completed by class members. Students gained a personal connection to the town by interviewing residents of the community about its history, enabling them to understand the past in a first-person way. 

It’s that kind of experience that makes the mission of Emory & Henry a reality. Blydenburgh and Barr are engaging in educational experiences that are interwoven with a life of service, productive careers, and global citizenship. 

“I don’t see myself as just a New Yorker anymore,” said Blydenburgh. “I’m from Emory now.”