According to the 2011 census, West Virginia’s Poverty Level has reached a devastating 17.5%, comparable to the 14.3% within the overall United States. The poverty line for a family of four is defined as having a yearly income of $22,113. In Jefferson County, WV (location of the two “Leaders In Action” middle schools and the OEC), the current poverty rate is 9.1%. Within the United States, the state of West Virginia has the ninth highest poverty rate. According to the Register-Herald News, approximately one in five West Virginia children live in poverty.

It is impossible to pinpoint one absolute cause of these disastrous statistics but contributing factors include the economy, lack of resources, absence of jobs, and generational poverty. While completing a community service unit, Harpers Ferry and Charles Town Middle Schools wrapped up 2012 with a canned food drive. Each school set goals for themselves; Charles Towns’ goal was 76 items while Harpers Ferrys’ was 130. These goals helped keep their motivation high while teaching them the importance of goal-setting. Through generosity, enthusiasm, and hard work, both schools exceeded their expectations. Charles Town Middle School brought in 130 items reaching a total of 125 pounds while Harpers Ferry Middle School brought in a whopping 205 items at 141 pounds. Together, both schools raised a grand total of 335 items at 266 pounds! The items were then handed over to Jefferson County Communities Ministries who gladly accepted our donation, especially during this cold winter season.

(Sarah Nowicki is an AmeriCorps VISTA at FLOC’s Outdoor Education Center in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia).

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