Highlander Center is excited to announce our

2018-2019 Appalachian Transition Fellowship Cohort!


North Carolina

Hosts: West Marion Community Forum, McDowell Technical Community College, The City of Marion, NC

Fellow: Alexus Boykins



Hosts: Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Martin County Concerned Citizens

Fellow: Ricki Draper

Hosts: MACED, Appalshop, Brushy Fork Institute of Berea College

Fellow: Brandon Jent

Hosts: InVision Hazard, MACED

Fellow: Courtnie Caudwell

West Virginia

Hosts: CARE Coalition, West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy

Fellow: Raynalle Rouse

Hosts: Refresh Appalachia, Buzz Foods, Coalfield Development Corp.

Fellow: Amanda Gribble

Hosts: Step by Step, Transformation Specialists, Coalfield Development Corp.

Fellow: Kandi Workman

Hosts: West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy, University of Kentucky, Sierra Club

Fellow: Lill Prosperino


Friends of Southwest Virginia, University of Virginia's College at Wise

Fellow: Shannel Arellano

Virginia Tech, Beans and Rice, New River Calley Planning Commission

Fellow: Olivia Lowery


SEAD Task Force, CWEET, Sunset Gap Community Center

Fellow: Katie Myers

SOCM, Woodland Community Land Trust

Fellow: Morgan Pennington

Orientation: June 15-24, 2018

June 15-17 Orientation at Highlander Center

June 18-24 Orientation Tour- visiting each host site.

Fellows’ first day in host community: June 27, 2018

2018-19 Closing Gathering: June 12-14, 2018

Check out this short video that Catherine Moore a member of the inaugural cohort of AppFellows created about the program!

2017 Host Communities and Fellows

The second cohort of the fellowship welcomed 10 emerging leaders in 10 host communities made up of 29 cross-sector partners throughout the region. The fellows supported, initiated, and implemented work in central Appalachian counties of Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, and regionally that fostered new or strengthened existing collaboration among organizations and entities. The fellows boosted networks and connectivity within states and across the region and provided increased capacity in fields that are instrumental to a just transition, including:

  • Planned a Food and Dance trail in southeastern Kentucky that supports small businesses, celebrates the power of food and social traditions to build community, and sustains the region by diversifying the economy
  • Strengthened a local creative economy through creative placemaking and downtown revitalization in Hazard, Kentucky
  • Developed the capacity and connectivity of food system actors in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia
  •  Created a new land ownership paradigm in the Appalachian coalfields that is fundamentally beneficial to local communities, economies and ecosystems
  •  Sparked innovative solutions to rural economic isolation through a local “Dark Skies” project to build ecotourism and community education
  • Fostered the reemergence of regional textile communities in Central Appalachia that enlivens connection and ownership of “soil to skin” textile processes.
  • Supported local communities across the state of West Virginia in advancing community-based initiatives to strengthen local food economies and rebuild communities devastated by flooding
  • Published media through a regional communications strategy across Central Appalachia to support Appalachians in telling their stories of transition and beautiful solutions

We opened up the 2017 AppFellows cohort with an orientation tour of Central Appalachia on January 5-13, 2017. The Fellows and Hosts arrived at Highlander for a welcoming dinner and then a day full of introductions, network building and learning. Then the Hosts went back to their communities and the Fellows began to dig into developing a shared understanding of the region and the many factors at play that must be considered when bringing about a just transition in Appalachia.

Then the Fellows and AppFellows Management Team hit the road for a tour through Appalachia with at least a half day spent at each of the host community sites. It quickly became clear what an exciting potential for collaboration was present. The tour was constantly full of exciting conversations as the Fellows came up with new ideas for how they could link their projects together to increase the impact of their work. By the time the tour returned to Highlander and came to a close the opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and a deeper connectivity across Central Appalachia were evidently abundant and the Fellows were primed to engage in that important work from day one.

As an innovative new program that spans states, sectors, and issues, the Appalachian Transition Fellowship was designed to meet stated goals and needs in the region: to support the next generation of emerging leaders in Appalachia through hands-on skill-building, real-world experience, and strong peer and mentor support; to increase connectivity and capacity of organizations and stakeholders working to accelerate transition in the region; and to foster a deep understanding of the complexities and opportunities needed to create a just and sustainable Appalachian economy. The 2017 AppFellows cohort is poised to meet each of those goals, with tangible outcomes and impacts. An evaluation process guided and supported by Rural Support Partners will ensure that all possible learnings and reflections are documented in order to share out the lessons from the program for years to come.

If you have any questions about the fellowship or our work toward a just economic transition in Central Appalachia please call Charice Starr or Elizabeth Wright at 865-933-3443 or email the team at appfellows@highlandercenter.org and we will be glad to follow up and provide further information.



LikEN - Appalachian Land Study

Fellow: Kristie Rodgers - (Harlan County, KY)

Community Farm Alliance and Fibershed

Fellow: Sam Hamlin – (Berea, KY)

Appalshop and The Highlander Research and Education Center

Fellow: Hope Hart – (Whitesburg, KY)

Higher Ground

Fellow: Finnley Willow - (Whitesburg, KY)

Hindman Settlement School, Knott County Chamber of Commerce, and Appalachian Food Summit

Fellow: Abby Huggins – (Hindman, KY)

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, and InVision Hazard

Fellow: Alice Beecher – (Hazard, KY)


Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, and Virginia Tech

Fellow: Terran Young – (Norton, VA)

West Virginia

Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council and the Calhoun County Park Board

Fellow: Brennan Zerbe – (Calhoun County, WV)

Unlimited Future and the Wild Ramp

Fellow: Courtney Boyd – (Huntington, WV)

WV Center for Civic Life, WV Council of Churches, and Generation West Virginia

Fellow: Brittany Carowick – (Charleston, WV)

Featured Blog Post

AppFellows Podcast - What does love mean to you in your community?

by Hope Hart

On February 14th, I hosted WMMT's Pine Mountain Mornings and featured other 2017 AppFellows (my "fellow Fellows," as I like to call them) in a Valentine's Day special. Since then I've made an 30-min. audio project from the interviews I collected that could be shared to spread the word about us and the fellowship! I know at least a couple of people have asked me about it. 

My fellow Fellows are smart and kind, and they share their wisdom on love and working in Appalachia, as well as recommending their favorite Appalachian songs and other songs that connects them to this region. I made a playlist from their songs, which you can find right here!


The second cycle of the fellowship garnered a lot of buzz in the region and beyond. Read all about it here!

What is the Appalachian Transition Fellowship Program?

The Appalachian Transition Fellowship is a year-long, full-time, paid program designed for 10 emerging community leaders who are committed to working in Central Appalachia for the economic transition of the region. Central Appalachia is defined as West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Tennessee, Appalachian Ohio and Western North Carolina. 

This program offers the opportunity to spend a year working within host communities 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. Through institutional placements, independently designed projects, training, and mentoring, the program gives emerging leaders and host organizations skills and networks needed to advance economic and social change in the region.

Central Appalachia is engaged in a period of economic transition. While the decline of previously stable industries such as coal and manufacturing bring significant economic instability, it also offers Appalachia the opportunity to focus on the long-term well-being of its people and its communities. This economic transition allows regionally-based industries to prosper while also protecting and supporting the environmental and social well-being of the region. The Appalachian Transition Fellowship (AppFellows) seeks to increase the connectivity and capacity of Appalachian institutions and leaders while building a collective analysis and seeding projects to change the systemic problems in our region, leading to a just and sustainable Appalachian economy.  

APP FELLOWS EVALUATION REPORT of Inaugural 2014-15 cohort 

We're excited to share this evaluation report of the first cycle of the Appalachian Transition Fellowship program. 

Conducted by Rural Support Partners, the report lifts up many of the strengths and successes we heard over the year of the fellowship as well as the holistic contributions the program made in the lives of young leaders. Through this investment in their leadership and skills, fellows were able to stay or return to the region to tap into their talents and ideas, to be creative problem solvers, and to build opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and impact through their fellowship projects in communities throughout Central Appalachia. 

We welcome your thoughts and questions on the report's findings! Please contact appfellows@highlandercenter.org or call 865-850-3333 for more information or to share your feedback.