Madison Burdet: West Virginia Proud

Photo by Kobe Nave, CU Student, Class of 2024

West Virginia is in the Appalachian region and has some of the most rugged land in the country. West Virginia valleys earned it the nickname of The Mountain State, because of the state’s rolling mountains, hills, and valleys. It is also well-known for its range of outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and whitewater rafting which is what bring in most of the tourists.

Although West Virginia is a beautiful state, lots of people come up with ideas of what the people and places in the state are like. Some of the most common stereotypes are that everyone is a hillbilly, cousins get married, they never wear shoes, or even some as crazy as that most people do drugs.

Now they may be called Mountaineers, but they are not all straw-hat-wearing, banjo playing, uneducated, and behind society people. The state has an interesting history of immigration, diversity, fighting for what they believe in, arts, culture, and the outdoors.

The idea that all West Virginia residents are uneducated and live in a holler is like any ridiculous stereotype, wrong and backward.

David Bennett McKinley is an American businessman and politician from Wheeling, West Virginia. He has been the U.S. Representative for West Virginia’s 1st congressional district since 2011 and he is a member of the Republican Party. McKinley was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from December 15, 1980 to December 1, 1994, and he was Chair of the West Virginia Republican Party from 1990 to 1994.

Kelli Ward is an American osteopathic physician and politician from Fairmont, West Virginia. She has served as the Chair of the Arizona Republican Party since 2019. She served in the Arizona State Senate from 2012 to 2015.

Nicholas Joseph Rahall II is a former American politician and member of the Democratic Party from Beckley, West Virginia. She served as a U.S. Representative from West Virginia from 1977 to 2015. He is the longest-serving member ever of the United States House of Representatives from the state of West Virginia.

Those are just some of the many educated people who come from the great state of West Virginia.

Another popular stereotype is that the residents of the state are uncultured, backwoods people and that there is no arts and culture scene in the state, which could not be further from the truth. West Virginians have a long history of local heritage music that they take pride for. Charleston and Morgantown have thriving music scenes and many cities have art walks and gallery open houses. The state has even produced some musicians, writers, and artists.

Virginia Fox Zanuck was an American actress born in Wheeling, West Virginia who starred in many silent films of the 1910s and 1920s.

Paul Dooley is an American character actor, writer and comedian from Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Hasil Adkins was an American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Boone County, West Virginia.

John Joseph Corbett is an American actor and country music singer from Wheeling, West Virginia.

Not only is West Virginia full of culture and inspirational people but it is a place that draws people in. A woman who was originally from West Virginia but had moved to Florida decided that it was time for her to come back home. She even thought it would be better to bring her teenage daughter along so she could live with her. Although, it was her plan for her daughter to stay, she left it up to her to decide what she wanted to do.

“Coming to West Virginia was a huge culture shock. I had always heard that it was all hillbillies who were addicted to drugs and lived in old shacks. But that was not the case when I finally got here.”

Hannah Franchesci

Hannah ended up choosing to stay in West Virginia and loved the people and the scenery within the state:

“I have now been in West Virginia for 8 years now. I love that you can see scenery almost anywhere you go, the curvy backroads, the amazing hospitality from people and I love the heavy accents. This place became a home to me.”

Hannah Franchesci

Hannah’s mother expressed how much she loves this state and says that she just could not stay away from it. She loves to drive the back roads and loves to be around the “good ole folks who live here.”

West Virginia has a lot of good qualities that draw people in, but the state can never quite escape the jokes. In January, Michael Che made a joke during the Weekend Update segment that did not sit right with a lot of people. Che noted the recent news that West Virginia was doing better than most other states in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines. The punchline suggested West Virginians were lured to vaccination sites by signs reading: “Free meth.”

West Virginia has come miles in treatment and recovery for people in addiction from where it was just a few years ago when the opioid crisis was taking hold. The number of treatment beds has increased from less than 200 to around 740 today, with plans for another 200. People with substance abuse disorders can now receive Medicaid funded treatment from a few weeks to four to six months depending on need.

Governor Jim Justice’s Jobs and Hope program, which began just last August, has received over 900 referrals of recovering addicts who get assistance with vocational training and help with finding a job, transportation, and childcare.

The state of West Virginia is actively working against the opioid crisis and carving new ways to help people lost in addiction. Each day more addicts take back control over their addiction and learn a new way of life. 

Rachel Thraxton started drinking and smoking marijuana when she was just 14 years old. In the following years, she became addicted to alcohol, pills, and heroin. Drugs cost her home, child, car, and job. After having the opportunity to become sober, she is now the coordinator for the Women’s Recovery Point of Charleston which is the first long-term recovery women’s facility operated by Recovery Point West Virginia. This is a program that helps place children back with their mothers.

Southern Highlands in Princeton, West Virginia has a women’s recovery center called WAVES in Bluefield, West Virginia. WAVES is an all-women’s facility where women can stay 28 days to 6 months before they either go home or the next step of recover.

Southern Highlands has a recovery coach who turned her whole life around. When she first went through the program it was probably her last chance at making a change in her life. She was already on a terrible path that kept taking her to jail and may have eventually could have ended with her death.

She is now almost two years sober and has completely turned her life around at 28 years old. She went through the program and took control of her life. Not only has she turned her life around, but she is now devoted to helping other addicts overcome their addiction.

There are so many stereotypes and ideas about the great Mountain State but in reality, there is nothing quite like it.

by Madison Burdet

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