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Justin Bowers, founder of the nonprofit organization Appalachian Impact, provides an update on the group's work to the Upshur County Commission Thursday. / (Photo by Monica Zalaznik)

Appalachian Impact founder briefs commission on programming, plans to launch student leadership development cohort program

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Commission agreed to continue leasing the Hampton Community Building to Appalachian Impact.

Justin Bowers, founder of Appalachian Impact, attended the Dec. 21 Upshur County Commission meeting to go over the programming that has occurred at the Hampton Community Building and its goals for the future.

Appalachian Impact is a nonprofit organization committed to building hope for at-risk students in north-central West Virginia.

“This is the start of our third year in the building, so from a programmatic standpoint, we have a one-to-one mentoring program within the schools, so our mentors go directly to the schools and spend at least 45 minutes a week with a student they’re partnered with, and we have eight of those active right now,” Bowers said.

Appalachian Impact has recruited West Virginia Wesleyan College Service Scholars to help build the program’s reach.

“They are going to be working to create some programming at the building, different open-door nights for students to come in, but they’re also working directly with Project Isaac at the middle school, which is an after-school program,” he said.

Appalachian Impact aims to fill a gap in services through providing assistance, guidance and mentoring to middle school and high school-aged students because, as Bowers explained, the Stockert Youth and Community Center already helps elementary school-aged children.

“We have also started a student leadership development cohort, and we’re really pilot testing this right now, but I describe it as mentoring, but taking it up a notch,” Bowers said. “Ideally, it would be a group of about eight to 10 students who meet regularly and are given the opportunity to set personal goals, goals for themselves as a cohort and the community’s goals as a whole, so we’re pilot testing this with some really top-notch students.”

They plan to officially launch the new cohort in the fall of 2024.

“They will cover everything from career skills to time management – just things a lot of students need to learn as they get ready to graduate and enter the workforce,” Bowers said. “We also brought back our summer community camps this past summer.”

“We were going to work with the school system as we’ve done in the past, but with all the state takeover stuff, that was a bit more difficult, so we hosted them at Wesleyan,” he added.

Appalachian Impact’s recent fundraising gala in October, “A Masquerade in Yellow,” also raised $17,000.

“On top of that, we have gained $5,000 to establish a Hope Scholarship in memory of Russ and Debbie Bush, which has been a really cool opportunity,” Bowers said. “Russ was our very first mentor, so we wanted to do that in his honor, and there are just a lot of good things happening there.”

The commission, which owns the building, voted to continue leasing it to Appalachian Impact for another year, beginning Jan. 1, 2024, and expiring Dec. 31, 2024, with the opportunity to renew it for another year.

Appalachian Impact’s renovated headquarters is located at 156 Hampton Road, and you can find more information about its events and announcements here.

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