Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education (PAGE): Teaching 21st Century Literacy Skills to Appalachian Girls
Though all areas of Appalachia share the problem of rural poverty, the central Appalachian region, which includes western North Carolina, has the highest poverty rate and a higher percentage of working poor than any other area in the United States. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, nearly 60 percent of adults in central Appalachia did not graduate from high school, and almost 30 percent of Appalachian adults are functionally illiterate. Gender inequality in the region is also high – women from the Appalachian states share common challenges resulting from low educational attainment, limited employment skills, few strong role models, and low self-esteem.
The Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education (PAGE) seeks to address these challenges by promoting 21st century literacy skills, educational access, and economic opportunity for Appalachia’s girls and young women in western North Carolina. Each June for the past four years, StoryCenter has facilitated a three-day workshop with PAGE’s summer service-learning interns from Duke University and Warren Wilson College, as well as with local high school interns who are facilitating PAGE’s program with middle school girls. We support participants in creating their own stories, and then we guide them through a one-day intensive training for facilitating basic Storywork. Next, our staff leads the group of interns in facilitating a digital storytelling component of PAGE’s summer program for 25 girls, aged 11- 13. The girls learn photography and create digital stories that meld one of the oldest traditions in Appalachian culture – storytelling – with important new skills and technologies.
These stories tell the collective story of the rich heritage of the region. The girls share them at a community-wide screening each year, and they are also housed on the PAGE website.